Fernando Alonso explains ‘stressful’ China sprint qualifying with delicate balancing act

Oliver Harden
Fernando Alonso waves to the crowd after qualifying third for the Chinese Grand Prix sprint race

Fernando Alonso waves to the crowd after qualifying third for the Chinese Grand Prix sprint race

Fernando Alonso has admitted he found the sprint qualifying session at the Chinese Grand Prix “quite stressful” with the changing conditions in Shanghai creating a delicate balancing act.

Alonso excelled in a rain-interrupted sprint qualifying session on Friday to secure third on the grid – a place ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull – for Saturday’s 19-lap sprint race at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Fernando Alonso to start third in Chinese Grand Prix sprint race

The wet conditions at a circuit not visited by F1 since 2019 created a challenging SQ3 session, with drivers visibly struggling to keep their cars on the road before Lando Norris claimed sprint pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Alonso has admitted the session made for a stressful experience, with the tyres improving with each lap as the track grip decreased.

Asked to describe his session, he told Formula 1: “Quite stressful, to be honest.

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“In Q1, we were just looking at the radar and the threat of rain was there from the first minute.

“We made some progress in Q1 and Q2 – just, because we were P8 or P9 – so not super competitive in the dry.

“In the rain at the end of Q3, every lap was in a little bit different conditions.

“The tyres were a bit better every lap, but the circuit was a little bit worse with more rain, so it was difficult to judge the level of grip and the level of risk that you wanted to apply, so in the end extremely happy.”

With just one hour of practice ahead of sprint qualifying, Alonso has admitted he has no firm impression of how Aston Martin’s race pace is shaping up this weekend.

And with F1’s pace ferme rules relaxed under the 2024 sprint format, allowing teams to finetune setups ahead of qualifying for Sunday’s main race, Alonso is hopeful the 19-lap mini race will point the team in the right direction.

“Not really a clear idea yet, but we will find out tomorrow,” he replied when asked about his potential race pace.

“We have a lot of racing laps now this weekend, a sprint race tomorrow and obviously the main race on Sunday.

“Let’s see if we can qualify well again tomorrow and let’s see.”

Read next: Why Lando Norris’ deleted laptime earned him pole position for Chinese GP sprint