Fernando Alonso aims dig at former team McLaren as P4 battle heats up

Thomas Maher
Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso lines up on the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso lines up on the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso believes McLaren may be feeling a tad overconfident in their quest to overcome Aston Martin in the Constructors’ Championship.

McLaren’s uptick in form as the 2023 F1 season has progressed has resulted in the Woking-based squad eying up Aston Martin’s fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship, with the gap reducing rapidly as Aston Martin’s points scoring has dried up in recent races.

The two teams have had mirror-image seasons, with Aston Martin starting well and fading, and McLaren starting badly but improving.

Lando Norris: McLaren ‘definitely’ can catch Aston Martin

Speaking after finishing in second place at the Japanese Grand Prix, McLaren’s Lando Norris expressed his confidence in being able to overturn Aston Martin’s points advantage – saying the fact both he and Oscar Piastri are scoring points gives them a big advantage over Aston Martin.

“I didn’t think it was that close,” he said when told the gap had been reduced to 49 points after Japan.

“But yeah, if it’s 49, then I definitely think [we can catch them]. There are not many races left. I’m sure there’s going to be a couple where Aston are going to be a bit stronger.

“But I think our advantage at the minute compared to almost every team, bar a couple, is we have two drivers who are up there fighting for these positions and fighting for these points. And not every team has that at the minute. So I think that’s helping us.”

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Fernando Alonso: McLaren have the momentum, but are overconfident

Speaking ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix weekend on Thursday, Alonso said he suspects the pecking order at the Lusail Circuit will be largely the same as what was seen in Suzuka – due to similar characteristics and a lack of upgrades.

“I think it’s going to be not too much of a difference,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone is bringing big upgrades to this weekend and the characteristics of the circuit are quite similar to Suzuka, so I guess it’s gonna be not too different.”

Asked for his thoughts on McLaren’s confidence, Alonso said: “Obviously, they have the momentum for sure. They’ve been quite fast, but maybe we can see ups and downs for everybody.

“They’ve been very strong before the August break, in Austria, and in Silverstone. They were close to being both on the podium at Silverstone and then, Zandvoort, we were on the podium and they struggled a little bit, so it’s good if they’re overconfident and let’s see if we can beat them in Abu Dhabi (sic).”

Having finished on the podium in the only race at Lusail, while racing with Alpine in 2021, the Spaniard said pulling off the same result again this weekend could be a step too far.

“It could be far away because we were on the podium two years ago and it seems a bit optimistic this weekend to think about the podium,” he admitted.

“But, let’s see, I think it’s gonna be a stressful weekend for everyone with the new asphalt, this temperature (40 degrees celsius), and only one free practice to optimise the setup.

“So I think no one will arrive 100 percent to qualifying on Friday, because there is not time enough on the free practice. If someone gets to qualifying only 60 percent optimised and another team gets 90 percent optimised, maybe there is a better chance so, yeah, it’s interesting.

“But, looking back at Suzuka, I think it could be a weekend that we are not at that type of performance.”

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