Fernando Alonso on Mercedes exaggeration: ‘They say W14 cannot make Q3’

Oliver Harden
Mercedes' George Russell at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Jeddah, March 2023.

Mercedes' George Russell at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Jeddah, March 2023.

Fernando Alonso has accused Mercedes of exaggerating when it comes to performance of the W14, claiming the team’s complaints make it sound as though they are struggling for a place in Formula 1’s top 10.

Having been restricted to just a single victory in a 2022 season blighted by porpoising, Mercedes had been widely expected to return to regular race-winning and title contention this year.

Following an underwhelming start to the campaign in Bahrain last month, however, the team admitted they had pursued the wrong development concept with the W14, with team boss Toto Wolff ordering sweeping changes to the car.

Additional reporting by Michael Lamonato

Despite the downbeat mood currently surrounding the team, Mercedes shone in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix as George Russell came second to the dominant Red Bull of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton beat Alonso’s Aston Martin to third on the grid.

The re-emergence of Mercedes stunned the paddock in Melbourne, but Alonso was unsurprised having spotted clues at the previous race in Saudi Arabia, where Russell was able to stay with the two-time World Champion and initially inherit a podium spot when Alonso incurred a post-race penalty in a decision later reversed.

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And Alonso – who felt Australia was Aston Martin’s “best” qualifying session of the season so far – believes the team are merely exaggerating their current woes, suggesting it is merely a matter of time before Hamilton and Russell are competing for victories again.

Asked he was surprised by the pace of Mercedes in Melbourne qualifying, Alonso replied: “No.

“I think in Jeddah they were within one tenth of the pace on Sunday to us. Here, they were P2 yesterday I think with Lewis in FP2.

“If you read their comments, it seems that they have a car that is out of Q3, but I don’t think that is that bad.

“It’s not as good as Red Bull – no one has a car close to Red Bull – but they are getting better and they will be a contender for wins soon.

“They did last year and they won a race after a very bad start, so I think this year they are also showing the potential they have.”

After the session, Russell admitted that he was “a little bit disappointed” to miss out on pole position with the W14 feeling “alive”, claiming the team must be doing something right during an inconsistent start to 2023.

Russell’s optimism was shared by Hamilton, despite the seven-time World Champion being outqualified by a team-mate in Australia for the first time since 2010.

“I’m so happy with this. This is totally unexpected,” Hamilton said after qualifying P3.