Alonso targeting third place in both F1 championships

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Fernando Alonso has set his sights on finishing third in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship behind the two Mercedes drivers, and is also hoping to help Ferrari fend off Williams to secure the same position in the constructors’ standings.

The team is currently enduring a difficult season after struggling to adapt to the new technical regulations for 2014. However, Alonso has continued to lead the team, and is just sixteen points behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for third place in the drivers’ standings.

Although he knows it will be tough, he hopes to secure a top three finish in both tables come the end of the season.

“The priority is to help the team and to get in the fight for third place in the championship that we lost to Williams in Germany and recovered in Hungary,” Alonso explained on Thursday in Belgium. “I think it will be a close fight until the end.

“We have two races now that are a little bit in favor of Williams’ characteristics, so we need to deliver good results over the next two weekends to score good points. In the drivers’ championship, I’d like to finish third, fighting with Ricciardo.

“I know that this is quite an ambitious target so we’ll see what we can do.”

Alonso also reacted to claims from team principal Marco Mattiacci that Ferrari must become more prepared to take risk and be more aggressive. The Spaniard feels that this has been the philosophy at Maranello for some time.

“From the end of 2011, we had more or less the same message,” he said. “We took risks and were quite aggressive with the design of the 2012 car, with the pull rod at the front and the different concept of the exhaust. I don’t think that we were not aggressive enough.

“We just need to put some things together, we need to keep improving the car, the factory, the facilities, and be a stronger team with new ideas and new people coming in.”

Hartley says debut F1 point would be ‘a dream’ from last on grid

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Brendon Hartley says scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut would be “a dream” after being resigned to last place on the grid for the United States Grand Prix following an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso to replace Pierre Gasly for the USGP when the Frenchman was ruled out due to clashing commitments in Super Formula.

Despite having not driven an F1 car since 2012, Hartley came within one-tenth of a second of making it through to Q2 on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas, ultimately qualifying 18th.

“Obviously I’d love to be quicker but we knew we were starting at the back, so we put a lot of focus on long runs, getting the peak performance out of this Pirelli tire I didn’t get today,” Hartley told NBCSN after the race.

“In FP3 I had a good feeling. There’s a lot of quirky things to manage with these tires. Honestly I should be happy with how the weekend’s gone so far.”

The New Zealander will start last due to a 25-place grid penalty for changes made to his power unit ahead of practice on Friday, and is daring to dream of making the top 10 in his first race out of a sports car for more than five years.

“I don’t do the 24 hours completely alone!” Hartley joked. “It’s quick. It’s physical to drive. I’ll be happy to be done after an hour and a half.

“A point would be a dream starting from the back. If I can move forward and put a race together, I’ll be happy.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.