Alonso pleased with P6 given engine power deficit

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Fernando Alonso has said that he is pleased to have qualified in sixth place for tomorrow’s United States Grand Prix given that the engine in his Ferrari F14 T is down on power this weekend.

Alonso is using an older engine so he can avoid taking a penalty and ensure that he has a fresh power unit saved for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which is worth double points.

Despite the power deficit, Alonso said that qualifying sixth was normal for him and Ferrari, so he was pleased with the result.

“We have been around fifth and sixth all year long in qualifying,” Alonso said. “Nothing will change probably now. I think maybe challenging [Daniel] Ricciardo.

“We were a couple of tenths down on the engine. We had some communications there after the Monza engine failure. At the factory we were discussing last week if we should use the sixth engine and start from the pit lane like Red Bull did.

“We’re using a very old engine, with a little bit less power and at least we don’t need to recover places. We chose the second option, so we are missing a bit of performance. Anyway, fifth and sixth is the way it is and I’m quite pleased with that.”

This way, Alonso will not need to follow Sebastian Vettel’s example and start the race from the pit lane.

“We are doing all of these things to avoid taking the sixth [engine],” Alonso said. “Of course, Abu Dhabi we must have no penalty because it’s double points, so if we manage here and we manage in Brazil, in Abu Dhabi we have no penalty plus a good engine. We have a better engine available. Here I can manage the races this weekend.”

Alonso does not think that he can finish on the podium in Austin, believing that Mercedes and Williams are too far ahead at the front of the field.

“I think Ricciardo and Vettel, who was doing competitive long-runs, I think he will be around us tomorrow. The McLarens, they are around us as well. We’ll see. The first four cars, Mercedes and Williams, are a little bit too fast for us if we are realistic. We just need to concentrate on that second race.”

NBC/NBCSN SCHEDULE FROM UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.