Solid points Down Under.
In a highly chaotic race, which featured an unprecedented three red flags, Fernando and Lance were able to fight their way through to finish third and fourth at Albert Park Circuit.
Fernando challenged for second place behind Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton for much of the race, before the second red flag came out. On the subsequent restart, he was tipped into a spin by Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.
However, as the third and final red flag was called before the field had passed the first sector marker, the result from the previous lap – minus any cars that were eliminated – was used for a one-lap restart behind the Safety Car to the finish. This meant Fernando came through to take his third podium finish in succession.
Sainz was penalised for the collision and this benefitted Lance, who had hustled for a top-five finish all afternoon. Despite running into the gravel at Turn Three on the second restart when battling with Sainz, Lance was able to retake his position due to the red flag procedure, and took fourth after Sainz's penalty – his best result with AMF1 to date.
After the race, Fernando, Lance and Mike described all the emotions of a frantic afternoon at Albert Park...
The Grand Prix
"What a race! There was just about everything you could imagine this afternoon so to come away with third and fourth places – and 27 points – is a brilliant reward for the team." Mike's opening words summarises the chaotic race up very well, but the team was able to keep its calm and deliver a third podium in as many races, backed up by Lance's fine fourth-place finish.
"It was a rollercoaster of emotions today with the red flags and incidents. It was probably my craziest race here in Melbourne but it's great to come away with another podium." Fernando has raced at Melbourne 18 times now, but highlights that this was among the most frantic. From the lows of the spin at the second restart, to coming through to the rostrum again, it was a day full of highs and lows.
"I think we should be pleased with the result we've come away with today: third and fourth is great for the team. It was a heavily disrupted race with red flags and a few big accidents, and neither Fernando nor I managed to stay clear of the drama." Lance summarises the eventful race up from his side, and highlights the strong result for the team at the end of the day.
"It was not an easy race to navigate with the early red flag putting extra emphasis on managing the Hard tyres. Almost everyone was trying to run until the end and it was very close throughout the top ten. Fernando stayed close to Lewis, but with similar race pace we could not get close enough to challenge for second." Mike explains how the first red flag changed the strategy for the frontrunners. The Hard tyre was durable, but it was going to be tough to extend it to run almost 50 laps. For Fernando, this meant that he followed Hamilton for a large portion of the race.
"There were many things going on all afternoon and we had an interesting battle with Lewis for second. The pace of the car was good and we kept up the pressure on Lewis, but he did a good job and didn't really make any mistakes." Fernando highlights the fascinating battle that took place between him and Hamilton. Fernando kept close to the Mercedes driver, but he was unable to find any way through.
"I had a little bit of contact on the first lap, but we were running well until the first red flag was thrown. As we've seen across the weekend, it takes a while for the tyres to get up to temperature here and so on the second restart I locked up at turn three and ended up in the gravel." Lance explains the contact he had with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc on the opening lap, and what happened on the second restart which resulted in him taking a trip to the gravel where Leclerc's race ended. Lance, however, was crucially able to continue.
"Lance raced hard all afternoon, survived various battles, and did an excellent job looking after the tyres. Then there was the chaotic restart and I have to say it was a relief to see the starting order reinstated. I know some drivers and teams really lost out in the mayhem, but we got a bit lucky with both cars being largely undamaged allowing us to finish the race under the Safety Car." Lance was in and out of scraps with other cars, as Mike explains. The order for the restart following the second red flag meant that Fernando and Lance were able to both able to return up the field, rather than at the back of the pack, putting them in position to secure today's result.
"On the contact with Carlos after the restart I'm sure he didn't mean to do it so I think the penalty for him was quite harsh in the end. We have to be pleased with this start to the season and three podiums in as many races." Fernando gives his view on the contact with Sainz down at Turn One on the second restart, and is buoyed by his consistent podium run to start his time at AMF1.
"Thankfully, the red flag had been waved before that point and I was able to retake my position for the final restart. This sport is a rollercoaster of emotions sometimes! Overall, we've come away from a chaotic race with a solid haul of points for the team and to be second in the Constructors' Championship after three races is very positive." Lance explains how his emotions changed considerably in a matter of minutes during the final red flag intervention. After retiring in Saudi Arabia, he picked up a decent haul of points this weekend for himself and the team.
"Big congratulations and thanks to the whole team at Silverstone and here at the track for another strong and faultless performance with both cars and our third podium of the year. Today we celebrate and enjoy this result, but tomorrow our attention turns to the next race in Baku." Mike closes out the weekend with his final thoughts. He pays tribute to every team member at base and trackside, but already has one eye on the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend in four weeks' time.
#14 | Fernando Alonso | Free Practice & Qualifying
#18 | Lance Stroll | Free Practice & Qualifying
"I am happy with fourth position today after a busy qualifying session. The circuit was difficult to judge at times, with changeable temperatures and weather. We seemed to improve in every session though and the car felt good to drive." Fernando on the conditions in qualifying. Despite the challenges, he felt more at one with the AMR23 as the session progressed, eventually culminating in fourth position on the grid.
"It was a tricky session with the threat of rain present throughout the whole of qualifying and especially during the final moments of Q3. We also saw an incredibly close field with every tenth of a second making a difference in Q1, Q2 and Q3. That was why we had to try and find the balance between saving tyres and making sure we did not miss the cut with quite significant track evolution." Mike highlights the tight nature of the qualifying session, with four constructors separated by just over half a second at the top of the timesheets in Q3. With just a few sets of Soft tyres to last the session and potentially the race, deciding when to put on a new set was more critical than ever.
"It was fun out there today; it is a great track to push hard at and the car was handling well. I think the team put in a good performance to qualify fourth and sixth despite fairly challenging circumstances." Lance enjoyed his track time today, and pays tribute to the team for the strong qualifying performance. He was able to find more and more speed as the day progressed, and ultimately was in the mix for a strong result.
"Overall, I think it was probably our best qualifying session so far this season and our closest gap to pole position. We will see what we can do tomorrow because our race pace seems to be one of our strengths." Fernando outlines that the AMR23 has looked strong in race trim. Despite not his best grid position of the season so far, he was just 0.407s off pole – closer than in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia.
"It was tough to understand at which point the tyres would be in their peak operating window given the changing temperatures and we only had one set of tyres left for Q3, so there may have been a little more lap time in there. That being said, the field is incredibly tight and so we are lining up in a strong place to fight hard for the top positions tomorrow." Lance explains his strategy for qualifying, in which he used an extra set of tyres in Q1. The Soft tyres were not providing their optimal lap time until the second or even the third fast lap, resulting in a lot of experimentation on track in the session.
"We were sensible and played it safe to ensure we progressed with both cars, but it meant Lance had just one set of new Softs for Q3. He made the best of them with two timed laps and starting from sixth gives him a great opportunity to score well tomorrow." Mike elaborated further on Lance's strategy. From sixth, he has every chance to race well and pick up a strong number of points.
"We are expecting it to be difficult to overtake, but in these cooler conditions it will be an interesting race with lots of unknowns. The target is to score as many points as possible." Fernando highlights that it is difficult to overtake around Albert Park. However, the temperatures have been cooler than anticipated so far this weekend, and there is a high risk of a Safety Car, meaning that the dynamic of the race is not set in stone.
"Fernando's session was strong, too, with clean and tidy laps putting him on the second row. We head into tomorrow's race feeling confident with our race pace and ready to fight once again." Final words from Mike on Fernando's performance and the race pace of the AMR23, which has been strong. The team will be ready to challenge for a strong pair of points-paying positions on race day.
"It was a good Friday for us and nice to be back in Australia. In FP1 we concentrated on some test items and ran through our programme smoothly." Fernando describes the approach the team took in the opening practice session, where he completed 23 laps of running.
"Albert Park is a track we all look forward to driving so it was good to get back out there today. The car was feeling good and we used FP1 to test various new parts which gives us plenty of data to look through this evening as we continue to learn about the AMR23." Lance expressed similar feelings to Fernando at the end of the day, with his running proving to be productive in FP1.
"The afternoon was obviously impacted by the rain, so there is still some work to do tomorrow. We need to learn more about the tyres and the long run pace of the car because there was not much time for that today." The rain limited the meaningful running of FP2 to just 20 minutes. Fernando looks to make the most of FP3 for preparation for the race.
"We did not log as many laps as we would have liked during FP2 because of the rain, but it is something that all teams will have struggled with so I do not think it puts us at a disadvantage for the weekend ahead." Lance, who tallied 34 laps across the day, did not see the lack of running in FP2 as a hindrance. Every driver was limited by the running in that session.
"So far though the car seems to behave well. The forecast tomorrow looks dry for now, and we would welcome that given we only experienced these conditions in the previous two races." Fernando looks ahead to the rest of the weekend, which has a dry forecast.
"Thankfully, the weather looks like it will improve tomorrow, but it has been fairly unpredictable today so you never know!" Melbourne has a history of weather that can be challenging to judge. Lance anticipates a dry Saturday, but cannot rule further rain out.
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