Fernando Alonso said being at the wheel of his Alpine car was a joy in Qatar Grand Prix qualifying – so much so, he could have driven it all night.
The double former World Champion produced his best qualifying performance since his return to Formula 1 this year by securing P5 on the grid at the Losail International Circuit.
Not only has Alonso fallen in love with a track that is hosting F1 for the first time, he found his Alpine car an absolute pleasure to drive – the nuances favouring the A521, which tends to vary in terms of relative performance from venue to venue.
“It was fantastic. I think the car performed really well, all weekend not only in qualy, and it was very enjoyable to drive,” Alonso told Sky F1.
“I told the team ‘if you put in enough fuel I could be all night long driving here’.
“I think there are certain circuits that seem to be better for our package, this is one of those and let’s see tomorrow. Saturday doesn’t mean much, it’s a good starting position but the points are given tomorrow and we need to maximise this position.”
— Fernando Alonso (@alo_oficial) November 20, 2021
Losail is much better known for MotoGP racing than the four-wheeled variety, but Alonso is clearly thrilled that Formula 1 fitted it into this year’s schedule as a late replacement for the Australian Grand Prix.
“The Qatar track is unbelievable for Formula 1 cars,” said the Spaniard. “I think the high-speed combinations, the long corners, you have everything here.
“Being at night as well, I know it should be no big difference but the track is quite cool at night and that helps a lot the overheating on the tyres, so you feel the grip, you feel you can drive the car, you don’t need to save the tyres in any of the corners and that’s a good feeling for a driver.”
Alpine are in a battle for fifth position in the Constructors’ Championship with AlphaTauri, locked together on 112 points, and that close proximity extends to the Qatar grid as Pierre Gasly starts one place ahead of Alonso.
“Obviously for us the main target is AlphaTauri,” added the 40-year-old. “Gasly starts fourth, we start fifth on the clean side, so maybe there is an opportunity there at the start if we can manage, and after that we need to be careful.
“I think there are some medium (tyred) starters behind us, Carlos (Sainz) one and (Sergio) Perez P11, so they will come eventually in the race and we will have to defend. So let’s see if we can keep this top-five position tomorrow.”
Alpine and AlphaTauri's fierce fight for P5
AlphaTauri are now joint on points with Alpine in the Constructor's Championship.