MELBOURNE, Australia -- Fernando Alonso believes Alpine had a genuine chance of securing pole position at the Australian Grand Prix. If not, he says "top two or top three was guaranteed."
The Spaniard suffered a suspected hydraulics issue midway through the final phase of qualifying. It prevented him from dropping a gear upon entry to Turn 11, and his car ran wide and into the barriers. Alonso's mechanical issue came moments before he was able to set his first timed lap of the session, meaning he will start the race from P10.
Earlier, Alonso had set the fifth quickest time in Q2, behind only the Ferrari and Red Bull quartet.
"It is unbelievable how unlucky we are, because 20 seconds later maybe we were on pole, if the car stops in Turn 1, instead of Turn 11," Alonso said after qualifying. "It has been the best weekend for years, for me, and it is so frustrating not to execute it at the end.
"It seems quite random and quite random on my car, in the moments when we are fast. These three races are difficult to explain [and] it's something we need to investigate. Today, top two or top three was guaranteed. It hurts."
When asked if he was shocked by Alpine's pace in Melbourne, Alonso added: "Maybe it was a surprise to fight for pole, but not a surprise to be closer and closer to the leaders."
Alonso's Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon managed to qualify P8, albeit 1.193s adrift of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who topped the session. Ocon and Alonso will sandwich Carlos Sainz on the grid, who endured a frustrating afternoon in the second Ferrari.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on posting a time in Q3, Alonso is encouraged by the steps Alpine have made over the winter, and even since the season-opening race in Bahrain last month.
"The car is getting better and better and we feel more confident," he said. "In Bahrain, when we were P9 or P10, maybe we don't care if the car stops, because it's only one point. In Jeddah we were okay, and today, top two or top three was guaranteed.
"Let's see what the car is when it comes back to the garage and if we need to change something that requires a penalty, I don't know yet. Tomorrow, scoring a couple of points is okay, but I think we deserve a podium sooner rather than later."