Fernando Alonso believes that Aston Martin needs nothing short of a “little miracle” if the marque is to pip McLaren to fourth in the standings after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Aston Martin enjoyed incredible early season form with its AMR23, in which Alonso claimed six podiums in the opening eight rounds.
The Silverstone-based marque held second in the standings until the Spanish Grand Prix but has since slipped to fifth going into the final event at the Yas Marina Circuit.
In the opening 12 rounds, Aston Martin picked up 196 points. Out-developed by its nearest rivals since the mid-season, the outfit has only managed to increase its season tally by 77 points since the Summer break.
McLaren’s shaky start to 2023 was corrected with the arrival of upgrades at the Austrian and British Grands Prix. Owing thanks partially to a run of five podiums in six races for Lando Norris, McLaren has converted a once 146-point deficit into an 11-point lead with one race to go.
Aston Martin was out-qualified by McLaren on Saturday when the Woking-based squad placed both of its cars in the top five in qualifying.
“I’m happy with qualifying, only one-tenth I think from Lando [Norris],” said Alonso who qualified seventh for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“Unfortunately for our battle in the Constructors’ Championship both of them will start in front of us, but let’s see what we can do.
“Obviously, we need something to happen to beat them, but this is F1. It’s not exact mathematics and maybe tomorrow we have this little miracle and we will push until the last lap.”
The 42-year-old is unsure of how Aston Martin will fare on Sunday having collected little long-run data due to a lack of practice running.
The Spaniard was one of ten full-time drivers to sit out FP1 as Felipe Drugovich performed rookie duties in the AMR23, while FP2 was heavily disrupted after a heavy crash for Carlos Sainz. The two compatriots head into the season finale tied for fourth in the drivers’ standings.
“It’s difficult to say,” responded Alonso when asked about his expectations for Sunday. “We missed FP2, everybody the long the runs because of the red flag.
“So we go into the race very blind, everyone is not really having the answers yet and it is going to be interesting because of that.
“It’s an art to adjust to the rapid track evolution here and changing from scrubbed soft tyres to a fresh set means there’s a lot of mixed feedback from the car.
“It made qualifying tricky. I think tyre degradation is going to make it a race of survival tomorrow night – let’s hope for some chaos”
Aston Martin boss Mike Krack was pleased with his team’s “well-executed” performance during a closely contested qualifying which saw the top eight all within seven-tenths.
“Our laps were solid and we did not leave much on the table,” Krack debriefed. “We can race well from there and I expect both cars to compete for points tomorrow.
“There are some question marks over the long-run pace across the grid, but I think we are in good shape
“There is plenty to play for in both championships and we will give it our all to end the season on a high note.”