Fernando Alonso decided to start from the front row for the first time since last year’s Canadian GP in qualifying for the 2023 Saudi Arabia F1 GP, while Max Verstappen retired in Q2. However, the Aston Martin driver told pollster Sergio Perez that he did not believe he would be in contention for victory. Alonso qualified third for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but Charles Leclerc’s 10-place grid penalty meant the two-time champion was promoted to second on the grid at the start of Sunday’s race.
But Fernando Alonso hesitated when asked if he could match Red Bull poleman Sergio Perez. “I don’t think so. I’m not pessimistic, but looking at the pace of free practice all weekend and the race in Bahrain, we have to be honest with ourselves and Red Bull are a bit ahead of everyone. I know, so tomorrow my target is not to fight for the championship with, say, Czech (Perez),” said Alonso. “But as I said before, Formula 1 is not exactly mathematics, so you never know what will happen. The most important thing for us is to score points and both cars start in the top five, both cars. Finishing in the top five and gaining points in the World Championships is my main goal this year.” Charles Leclerc was within a tenth of a second of Perez’s time on pole, while almost half a second off pole position. Alonso said he was “very happy” with his qualifying result, although he was disappointed that he did not improve significantly from Q2 to Q3. “It felt good. What I probably couldn’t improve was the speed from C2 to C3. In C2 I was second with 1:28.7 and I did almost the same lap in C3, so the speed from C2 to C3. I missed a few jumps and I didn’t keep up with the evolution of the track, but overall I think we must be very happy.” It’s a completely different circuit to Bahrain and we start the second race on the front row. has been a very positive weekend for the team.”