Alpine admit they’re still baffled by Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso managed his first front row start since 2012 at last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer is struggling to figure out how Fernando Alonso managed to put the car on the front row in Canada last weekend.

In changing conditions, the Spaniard put a stunning lap together to displace compatriot and Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz and line up for the race behind Max Verstappen.

It was the fifth time this year that he has out-qualified Esteban Ocon, who ended up in P7 ahead of Sunday’s race, so where exactly the double world champion got his pace from is a “very good question.”

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“With all the computers we have, and there are many, we are still trying to understand the differences,” Szafnauer told AS.

“Part of the season is that he was great in the rain, but he had already been quick on Friday. 

“It wasn’t just Saturday. Another part is the circumstances, the track during up and there are many variables.”

Alonso would drop down to seventh after some misfortune with Virtual and full Safety Cars, while an issue with his engine did not help matters either, prompting Ocon to give him a slipstream in the closing stages to help the 40-year-old on the straights.

“I’m not sure it only happened to him although it looks like it,” explained Szafnauer.

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“Fernando had a problem, a leak in the power unit, fortunately it was not so serious that he retired.”

At times, the French side were able to compete with Mercedes last weekend but, in dry conditions last Sunday, the Silver Arrows were just too good.

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“The pace of the car in the rain was good. In the dry, we thought that we wouldn’t be as fast as Ferrari and Red Bull, but that we would be with Mercedes, then they overtook us,” added the Romanian-American team boss.

“But we must be realistic, we are not going to finish third in the Constructors’ Championship. 

“I hope we can fight again with Mercedes, it’s a couple of tenths. The engines are even and the difference is in the aerodynamic load.”

Alonso was given a penalty for a naughty defence of his position against Valtteri Bottas on the final lap, sending him down to ninth.

Ocon grabbed fifth in the other Alpine while the McLaren pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris failed to finish inside the top 10, so just eight points now separate the two teams in the battle for fourth in the Constructors’ Standings.