Fernando Alonso claimed sixth place on the grid in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix, but later revealed that he is still suffering physical after-effects of his heavy landing at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Spaniard was photographed on a spinal board after a high-speed trip across the kerbs at Yas Marina two weeks ago, but pronounced himself fit for Austin in a bid to return Ferrari to second place in the constructors' championship. Where championship rival Kimi Raikkonen headed for surgery instead of consolidating Lotus' position in the teams' table, Alonso missed only his media commitments on Thursday, having passed a medical examination with Dr Steve Olvey and been told he could drive.
The double world champion went on to top the times in Friday's truncated opening practice session, but has seen his position in the pecking order fluctuate since, eventually settling on the outside of row three – his best showing for four races - after making it through to the final phase of qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
“I feel reasonably satisfied with the result of today's qualifying because, after the
problems we have had almost all weekend long - and even in Q1 - we had little hope of getting through to the third part,” he revealed, “It just goes to show how much things can change with around ten degrees higher track temperature….”
With Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa falling at the second hurdle, Alonso carried the Prancing Horse banner solo in final qualifying, but remains optimistic about his chances in the race.
“We have suffered a lot in getting the tyres to work, especially in the morning sessions, when the temperatures were lower, but, looking at the pace we showed in the afternoon, I think that the sunshine predicted for tomorrow could help us to have a good race,” he reasoned.
“It would be nice to make it to the podium, but my main aim is to help the team to take second place in the constructors' championship. In order to do that, we need to beat the Mercedes, preferably right from the start, which will condition the way the race goes. It will not be easy, however, as the dirty side of the track here in Austin is one of the worst of the year…”
What Alonso did not disclose in his official post-qualifying statement, however, was the toll his avoidance of Jean-Eric Vergne in the last race continues to take. Following Saturday's session, the BBC reported that the Spaniard continues to suffer headaches as a result of the 28G impact put through his body as the Ferrari bounced over kerbs at around 150mph.
"All week [after the race], I had a big headache because the nerve is compressed and I didn't have enough blood pressure in the head," Alonso claimed, "Three or four hours after the race I was perfectly fine, but they said I needed checks because the of alarm in the chassis [indicating an impact above 25G].
“When they did a normal test, they saw some problem maybe, some lack of sensitivity in my left arm and my left leg and, because of that, they were a little bit worried and I went to the hospital for the MRI. Afterwards, the nights were very difficult but, slowly, the inflammation became normal and I recovered the feelings."
"I had a little bit of pain on Friday night, and this morning when I woke up, but driving with all the adrenaline and a warm-up is good. Maybe tonight [I will] still have some pain but, in the race, when you are in the car, you forget everything."