One day on from abandoning practice to play tennis after yet another Honda engine failure, Fernando Alonso qualified seventh on Saturday for the Spanish Grand Prix.
“A beautiful day,” he declared, beaming in front of his adoring home fans at the Circuit de Catalunya, where he won his last Formula One race, with Ferrari, four years ago.
Just how good is @alo_oficial?? Utterly brilliant effort to drag the car into Q3!— Karun Chandhok (@karunchandhok) May 13, 2017
“Today was a beautiful day, a beautiful qualifying, in which we were finding tenth after tenth. Then, surprisingly we made it into Q3 and we had another very good lap…
“As I said yesterday (Friday), sometimes the weekends start the wrong way, but then they fix themselves and vice versa. The important thing now is tomorrow — to try and get a few points.”
On Friday morning, he was unable to run in the opening practice after his McLaren-Honda engine failed, returning in the afternoon for an unimpressive set of laps in second practice.
But overnight work on a progressive car that has been let down by its power unit paid dividends on Saturday for the two-time champion who is set to miss the Monaco Grand Prix later this month.
Instead, he flies to the United States on Monday to begin preparations for the Indianapolis 500 for which he passed his rookie test last week.
“Maybe, on the oval, I learned how to go quick on the straights as well,” he said. “For me, it was a good qualifying for us and P7 is a gift so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Alonso outpaced his McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne by half a second, the Belgian qualifying 19th.
“Yesterday was not a normal session,” added Alonso. “We had the problem in the morning and then the car was half ready for the second session. I said we would be more competitive today…
Fernando Alonso walking into the McLaren garage later. pic.twitter.com/FUm1NZYkOH— Grace (@Grace_Wilko) May 13, 2017
“It was better than expected, but the support from the people gives a few extra tenths.”
A McLaren revival may persuade Alonso to stay with the team next year.
On Thursday, he told a news conference he would be open to offers from other teams if McLaren-Honda were not able to develop a potential race-winning car for 2018 before the end of August.