FP3 took place in bright sunshine and with ambient air temperatures averaging 30 degrees Celsius. Both drivers completed their scheduled run plans but neither was completely happy with their pace. Stoffel, in particular, reported unsettled handling, which, in addition to traffic, meant he wasn't able to get everything out of the car he'd hoped. Fernando finished the session in 10th position, and Stoffel in 17th.
Qualifying was the tough challenge the team expected, and neither driver felt able to maximise their car's performance. Both Fernando and Stoffel narrowly squeezed through into Q2 but were unable to make any further progress up the grid, and will line up for tomorrow's race in 13th and 14th respectively.
Fernando Alonso: "Today wasn't great - our qualifying performance was worse than we expected. It was okay in free practice, but then in qualifying we lost speed and we were struggling from Q1.
"Our one-lap performance is not yet optimised - we cannot extract the maximum from the tyres over one lap, and we need to find the reasons why.
"Our race pace has been better than our pace over a single lap so far, and yesterday during the long runs on old tyres we felt quite competitive. This morning, too, on a hot track the car felt good and we seem to take good care of the rear tyres, which is going to be an advantage in the race. But, obviously our starting position is compromised already and we are quite far back, so we'll see what we can do.
"Having said that, not making it into Q3 isn't the end of the world. We didn't make it there in Australia either, but on Sunday we both scored points, so hopefully we can repeat that here. This is a demanding circuit, tyre degradation is high and reliability is a concern, so we need to stay focussed and take advantage of the strategy. The free choice of tyres now gives us some advantage and we'll try to maximise that. The race is tomorrow and that's when the points are given."
Stoffel Vandoorne: "We all expected a bit more from today. We had good sessions yesterday in FP1 and FP2 and I was feeling very confident in the car. We know we're in this very compact midfield where every tenth is very important for us and makes all the difference, so we need to keep improving.
"With a step forward today we could have fought for Q3, but we knew it was going to be tough. In these harsh conditions things can change quickly and it's really unfortunate we couldn't get there.
"We didn't make the step forward that we needed to today, so we need to keep pushing and there's a lot of work to do. But, I think we can race tomorrow. We had good pace during the long runs on Friday and the balance was pretty good. This is a circuit where strategy and tyres are quite complex, so there are some possibilities. We need to be opportunistic and, like in Melbourne, try to benefit from other people's mistakes.
"We have a free choice of tyres tomorrow, and I think around here it could be quite interesting. Tyre degradation has been key at this track in the past and there are a number of different strategies possible. We've seen some good races here and that's what we're going after tomorrow."
Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "Although qualifying was the tough challenge that we predicted in what is an extremely tight midfield pack, our performance today was certainly below our expectations. Both drivers didn't feel as comfortable or confident in the car as they were yesterday, which is something we need to analyse overnight with our engineers.
"We recognise that the teams around us often make a performance step on Saturday and this is something we must address. However, we know that the race pace of our package tends to be more positive than our speed over one lap, and with a free choice of tyres we believe we can fight for points on Sunday.
"Now, we'll work hard to analyse all the data from today and put everything we can into setting up the cars, so that we can move further up the field in tomorrow' race."