(Melbourne) After earning his 100th podium in Saudi Arabia in circumstances that have sown confusion and controversy, Fernando Alonso will be hoping for a better result on Sunday at the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix than his two third-place finishes in as many races in 2023.

Possibly even his 33rd Formula 1 victory, and his first in 10 years.

The Aston Martin driver finished behind the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in events in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in what has so far been a one-sided championship.

Alonso believes the championship will become more competitive as the season progresses, but he is happy with his car’s performance heading into the race in Melbourne.

Two free practice sessions will take place on Friday, and a third on Saturday before qualifying, which will also be presented on Saturday.

“Right now we’re extremely happy with the performance of the car, that’s for sure. It was better than we anticipated, especially in Jeddah,” described the 41-year-old Spaniard, two-time world champion in his career.

“We came here with a good level of confidence. But, as I mentioned, after a few trials, from now on, I think the cars are going to change a lot on a few levels via development. »

Alonso became the sixth Formula 1 driver to reach 100 podiums following his performance in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago at the end of a race marked by controversial developments.

The Aston Martin driver was given a 10-second penalty for being judged slightly out of position at the start of the race, which saw him slip into fourth place behind Mercedes driver George Russell.

Then Alonso was able to recover his podium following an appeal which was upheld by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), because the race marshals had not notified Aston Martin of the penalty within the prescribed period. .

On Thursday, Russell said it was a strange situation, but also that the right decision was made.

“It was just a bit of a shame that it was a mess for everyone,” noted the Briton.

“I think on my side and on our side, we didn’t feel like we deserved to finish third, but obviously it’s a pretty nice feeling when it’s handed to you. But then, when it was taken down, it was just kind of silly. »

Although he considers the situation in Jeddah less than ideal, Alonso nevertheless enjoyed being able to celebrate his feat on the podium, ahead of the stewards’ deliberations.

Following the events in Jeddah, the places on the starting grid at the Australian Grand Prix and at the following events will be enlarged. A center line will also be added to help drivers start the race in the right position.

Alonso’s last Formula 1 triumph dates back to 2013 in Spain, but his two podium finishes this season have thrilled racing fans in his country, including fellow countryman Carlos Alcaraz, the world’s number one male tennis player.

After he defeated Tommy Paul at the Miami Open this week, Alcaraz dedicated his win to Alonso, writing “soon to be 33” on a television camera lens. This gesture was followed by a friendly interaction between the two Spaniards on social media.

“It’s crazy how excited Spain is for Formula 1 right now with everything that’s going on. It’s very nice to see,” admitted Alonso.

“Wish we could get to that number, 33, and then go for 34.”

Verstappen, who leads the drivers’ championship by a point over Perez, believes Alonso can soon end the drought.

“I think Fernando should have won a lot more races. He deserves it. I would be happy to see him win his 33rd (race), but also, in a way, I would like to see him win more. »