Alonso goes down early – disaster Saturday in Imola

For Fernando Alonso, Saturday in Imola was a negative experience. The two-time world champion did not get past 19th place on the grid in qualifying for the seventh race of the 2024 Formula 1 season. After an accident in training, Alonso was unable to get into a rhythm in Q1. A ride in the Tamburello was followed by instructions from the team to park the Aston Martin early. Only a track limit violation by Williams driver Logan Sargeant saved the Spaniard from last place on the grid.

“Today was just one of those days when everything goes wrong,” said the 42-year-old, who only had his mechanics to thank for taking part in qualifying. In the third practice session he hit the barrier in the last corner after losing the rear while turning. During the break before qualifying, the crew got their Aston Martin ready to go again. “It was incredible and nice to see how the teams of both cars gave everything so that mine could drive in qualifying. We did that, and a big thank you to everyone.”

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That was it for Alonso with the positive news that day. In Q1 he set off with more fuel than usual to make up for the track time lost in FP3. “We just made a few pit stops so I could get more laps,” he explains. Under these conditions he was unable to set a competitive lap time at the start of the session. However, the attack in the end failed to materialize. In the Tamburello he made another driving mistake, this time escaping with a ride through the gravel.

He still didn’t get another chance. “In the end the car was light and we had new tires on it, but then I had to pit because of an unknown problem,” complains Alonso. “It was quite painful. I asked them three or four times if I really had to come in, but they kept confirming it. I’m very sorry for the mechanics because they deserved more after their great work.”

No chance of success with starting from the box

At the end of Q1, Alonso was in 20th and last place in the classification. The fact that Sargeant’s lap time was canceled saved him from the red lantern. On Sunday he will still be last behind the field. “We don’t know exactly what’s going on with the car yet, so we’ll start from the pit lane,” said Alonso.

The 383-time Grand Prix participant believes the chances of success for the race are slim. His duels with Michael Schumacher in Imola in 2005 and 2006, in which both chased each other but failed to make a decisive overtaking maneuver, are unforgettable. Experience has shown that he will still have a difficult time almost 20 years later.

“Imola is one of the worst places to start at the back. When it comes to overtaking, only Monaco is more difficult. Even Singapore makes it easier than Imola, that says it all,” said the old master, who wants to use the racing distance in Imola for this to gain new insights into the upgrades to his AMR24. “It will be a tough race, we should be able to learn something about the package.”

Alonso breaks a lance for Imola despite the accident

Alonso wasn’t the only driver penalized by the strict track limits at Imola this weekend. The traditional course has been adapted for 2024 and some of the gravel beds from earlier days have been restored. Although he was one of the victims of this measure, Alonso defends the restructuring.

“It’s definitely better this way. The places where you have so much run-off area, everything will be forgiven,” he explains and speaks out in favor of the merciless gravel beds in Imola. “It’s one of the courses that is maybe a little outdated when it comes to these big and wide cars that are so close to the asphalt. But it’s the same for everyone, it offers different set-up challenges and you can go in different directions . It’s good to have this mix on the calendar.”

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