The Debrief by Aramco: Saudi Arabian GP
After a hard-fought race, Fernando came through to secure his 100th Formula One podium finish around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Hear from him, Lance and Team Principal Mike Krack as they look back on an eventful night...
From their top-five grid positions, both Fernando and Lance made up ground at the start of the Grand Prix. Fernando got a better launch than polesitter Sergio Perez and led the opening stages of the race. Lance pulled off a spectacular pass on Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to work his way into fourth.
Fernando lost the lead to Perez a few laps later, but was initially able to keep up with him. He later slipped back behind the second Red Bull of Max Verstappen as the race progressed, eventually securing third position in the race and becoming just the sixth driver in history to take a landmark 100 F1 podium finishes.
It was however a mixed bag for the team as Lance had to retire due to a mechanical problem in the early stages of the race after running so well in the early stages.
Fernando, Lance and Mike gave their thoughts as the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend came to an end...
The Grand Prix
"I am happy in the end with the result tonight and our second podium. We showed that we can be the second fastest team and we had good pace throughout the race." Back on the rostrum. Fernando highlights that the AMR23 had strong race pace for the second weekend in succession, and took his second podium in as many races with AMF1.
"It was disappointing to retire from the Grand Prix after such a promising weekend. I had a great start and really enjoyed overtaking Carlos around the outside of Turn 13." Lance evaluates his short Grand Prix, and highlights his great battle with Sainz as one to remember from his brief race.
"It is very satisfying to score our second podium of the year with Fernando here in Jeddah. It is Fernando's 100th career podium, which is a very impressive milestone." Another night to remember for the team, and Mike highlights Fernando's incredible achievement.
"It was my mistake at the start with the position on the grid, but we pushed to make up that time." Fernando explains where his penalty at the start came from, which he served during his pitstop. He was out of the grid box, earning a five-second hold before his tyre change. Despite that, he was able to crucially hold onto track position ahead of Mercedes' George Russell.
"We were in a good position on track and I was having fun pushing, but then I started experiencing reduced power and got the call to stop the car. It is not the result we wanted, but we leave Saudi Arabia knowing that we have a very competitive car and we will pick up the fight next time out in Australia." Lance had to retire from the race on lap 18 after running well, but takes plenty of optimism into the next race at Albert Park.
"It is a real shame that Lance was forced to retire early with an energy recovery issue, the cause of which is still being investigated, because he had strong pace and would surely have scored big points tonight as well." Mike explains the cause of Lance's stoppage, and highlights that he was on course for a strong points finish as well to back up the strong performance showed by the AMR23 this weekend.
"Coming into this weekend we were not sure exactly where we would be, so this is good news for us going into the next few races. I am looking forward to Australia next." Fernando looks ahead to another very fast street circuit – Albert Park in Australia, which is then followed by the Baku Street Circuit in Azerbaijan.
"The car has been competitive throughout the weekend and we showed strong race pace once again tonight. Full credit to everyone in the team for their hard work this week. Final words from Mike, who pays tribute to the team for their role in another podium finish. The AMR23 has proved its worth around two very different circuits so far this season.
#14 | Fernando Alonso | Practice & Qualifying
#18 | Lance Stroll | Practice & Qualifying
"All in all we have to be very happy with starting on the first row of the grid tomorrow. It is a very different circuit compared to Bahrain and to see us fighting in Q3 again is a positive sign." Fernando highlights that the AMR23 has showcased good speed around a circuit very different to the previous event, with few braking zones and many fast corners in contrast to the traction demands in Bahrain.
"The team delivered a really strong qualifying performance today and we have put ourselves in a great position to fight for a good haul of points in the race tomorrow. We were not sure whether the pace we saw in Bahrain would translate to such a different circuit here in Jeddah, but the car felt good and we were able to keep pushing the limits throughout qualifying." Lance echos the thoughts of his team-mate with regards to the AMR23. He looks to fight for plenty of points in the Grand Prix.
"A strong performance by the entire team this week gives us a great opportunity and confidence for tomorrow. We will start from the front row with Fernando and fifth with Lance, and we will continue pushing hard to convert today's speed into results tomorrow." Team Principal Mike Krack outlines the mood in the team after a strong qualifying session, and looks to convert the grid positions into a lot of points on Sunday.
"The track did evolve during the session, but maybe not as much as we anticipated, especially from Q2 to Q3. Our strength in this package has been on the long runs, so hopefully we can optimise this as much as possible tomorrow." The AMR23 has shown well in race runs so far this year, and Fernando looks to capitalise on this in Sunday's race.
"My final lap was going well, and I went purple in the first sector, but I made a small mistake at Turn 22 and lost two or three tenths. Still, starting fifth is a good result; we have a competitive race car, and there is all to play for tomorrow." Lance explains what happened on his final lap, which was looking very good until the final sector. Despite the mistake, his effort was still good enough for the third row of the grid.
"The lead up to qualifying was pretty smooth: we did our homework on Friday and in final practice, and both drivers were happy with the car balance heading into qualifying." Mike reflects on the weekend so far, with the entire team putting in a fantastic effort to get both Fernando and Lance in a position to deliver the strong combined result in qualifying.
"It is very tight between a number of teams so tomorrow will be an interesting battle for sure. But with both cars starting inside the top five positions, our main goal is to come away from this race with as many points as possible." The gaps in qualifying between most of the teams was very, very tight. The team is the only one with both cars on the first three rows on the grid for the race.
"We expect a very close race tomorrow with the teams around us. It is usually an intense race here; it can be unpredictable, and you always have to be reactive and avoid mistakes. But we are ready to fight and we know we have a good race car." Final words of the day from Mike, who outlines that the Saudi Arabian GP has a history of being highly difficult to anticipate because of the high chance of a race interruption, but is ready to go on Sunday to secure the best results possible.
"It has been a strong day for us as we continue to learn about this car. We knew that Jeddah would present different challenges to Bahrain and it is almost like a second test here for everyone this weekend." Fernando finished both sessions in the top three, and made the most of the time on track, learning more and more about the AMR23 in the process.
"It is always fun driving around this track. It is high-speed and high adrenaline; I think we all enjoy the challenge. The team had a good day of running, trying lots of different things, and it has given us plenty of data to analyse." Completing 47 laps today, Lance was happy to return to the Jeddah track, and was also towards the top of the timesheets throughout the day.
"Overall, the day went smoothly for us as we are trying to optimise the setup and adjust to the high-speed nature of this circuit. We have a lot of data to analyse as usual for a Friday and we will continue to look at everything tonight and into tomorrow. Our main goal will be to reach Q3 again." Without major interruption, Fernando was able to get 48 laps in across the two Friday sessions. He has sights on reaching the top 10 on Saturday.
"We will use this evening to learn as much as possible and do our best find more performance ahead of Qualifying. I think it will be a pretty tight session; all the teams around us look competitive and closely matched. Our aim tomorrow has to be Q3." As close as ever. Several teams were in the mix in the top half of the timesheets on Friday, and Lance seeks to be in the mix to make it to the final part of Qualifying.
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