© Getty Images

Alonso: Austin performance among the best of my career

Leave a comment

Fernando Alonso believes that his performance in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix was one of the best of his career despite finishing outside of the points.

Alonso has struggled to find any kind of form in 2015 thanks to the deficiencies of the Honda power unit in his McLaren car, scoring just 11 points.

However, damp conditions at the Circuit of The Americas throughout Sunday’s race helped to neutralize the field and limit the power advantage of the other teams, giving Alonso a more level playing field to fight on.

The Spaniard managed to fight his way up into the points, running as high as fifth before an issue on his power unit caused him to lose time in the closing stages of the race.

Alonso eventually crossed the line 11th, losing P10 and the final points-paying position on the last lap, but was delighted with his performance at COTA.

“This was one of the best races of my career,” Alonso said. “To be running one minute behind the penultimate car on lap two, and then be running as high as fifth position with ten laps remaining was quite a feat.

“After such a strong recovery, it was a shame that a mechanical issue in the closing laps put us out of the fight. That meant my feelings after the race were more sad than happy – but we can go away and continue to try to improve these issues.”

Teammate Jenson Button managed to bring home some points for McLaren, recording his best finish of the season in sixth place.

“This was a strategic race today, and, strategy-wise, we did a perfect race,” Button said. “The team should be very happy with what we achieved; we made all the right calls, but still we need to go away and look at our lack of performance.

“In the opening laps, I really enjoyed racing in the drying conditions, and I felt like I was able to make a bit of a difference.

“We got onto slicks before the others, and made the right calls, but, once it was dry and everybody knew where to brake, it became a lot more difficult for us. We just couldn’t match the others’ pace once they all found their feet.

“Nevertheless, it’s great to get some points – and I enjoyed the challenge. We just didn’t have the pace.”

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.