Fernando Alonso expects the reintroduction of the Sprint format at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix to hamper Aston Martin’s overall competitiveness.
The Silverstone side has enjoyed a spectacular start to the year, with Alonso recording six podium finishes in the opening eight races since his winter switch.
After a subdued weekend in Spain, Aston Martin bounced back in Canada with an extensive upgrade package to its AMR23 propelling Alonso to a second-place finish.
However, the former two-time Formula 1 champion anticipates that the inclusion of only one practice session this weekend will have a profound impact on how much the team can learn about its revised car.
“Yeah, Austria, yeah, let’s see. I think the Sprint weekend will not be ideal for us,” he conceded. “We still have more time maybe of free practice with our new upgraded car.
“We still need to understand and optimise the package a little bit and in Austria, obviously with the sprint, we will have only FP1 to do that. But yeah, it is what it is.”
Last time out in Montreal Alonso’s second place marked the first time a rival team had come within 10s of a Red Bull car at the chequered flag under green flag conditions.
But the Spaniard continues to refute suggestions that Aston Martin could be creeping closer towards landing its maiden F1 win, reiterating his affirmation that Monaco represented the British side’s best chance of ending Red Bull’s flawless run.
Nevertheless, despite his concerns about Aston’s prospects in a Sprint weekend, Alonso is confident that the Red Bull Ring will be a better suited track for the AMR23.
“The circuit will be good and maybe better for the package as well, this one [Canada] with a strange layout, let’s say,” he added.
While Aston Martin and Mercedes have fought to be the second best team on the road in recent rounds, Ferrari’s threat on Sundays has continued to dwindle.
However, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko warned that the Italian marque could have posed a serious threat to his team with a cleaner qualifying and predicts its SF-23 charger will fare well in Austria.
The 80-year-old’s words have been echoed by Alonso, who predicts that his ex-team – winner of last year’s race with Charles Leclerc – could spring a surprise.
“Maybe good for Ferrari, historically here as well with a long straight and short corners so maybe Austria we have a little bit more pace,” he summarised.
Since the Austrian GP was revived in 2014 Alonso’s best result at the venue came on its return when he finished a lonely fifth in his final year driving for Ferrari.
The Oviedo-born racer has endured a mixed bag of results at the circuit in the proceeding years, registering three non-scores before scoring points in each of his last four visits.
Alonso was able to recover from starting a lowly 19th to snatch the final point from Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages of last year’s race.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll is aiming for a strong result after coming under pressure in recent weeks.