Fernando Alonso could have been in the leading battle in Australia had his fortunes been a little better, according to Alpine's Sporting Director, Alan Permane.
The two-time World Champion endured a nightmare weekend as he finished the race in 17th after starting from 10th, having had his qualifying session ruined due to a hydraulic issue.
Alonso had been on a storming flying lap in Q3 when he went off the track at Turn 11 and hit the barriers. Initially viewed as a driver error, the issue turned out to be a hydraulic problem which caused heavy steering and an inability to select the correct gear for the corner.
But, had Alonso managed to complete the lap, he would have been very close to the heart of the action, according to Permane.
"I think somewhere [around] third or fourth would [have been] a realistic effort," Permane told the F1 Nation podcast.
"I know there's talk of pole and stuff, but I don't think that was quite on. But [he would have been] significantly higher up."
How might Alonso's weekend have played out otherwise?
Permane explained why Alpine believe Alonso was capable of such a strong grid position.
He added: "That lap was heading for an (1:)18.3. I don't know where that would have put him, but he had another set [of tyres]. So let's say he's gonna take another tenth to a tenth and a half off with his next set – 1:18.1, 18.2, something like that.
"He wouldn't have been on pole, but front row, second, third, fourth... who knows where he absolutely would have been?"
Had his weekend not been stymied by the issue, Permane suspected a strong race result was more than possible.
"Somewhere around where the McLarens were; either just in front or just behind them," he said, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo coming home fifth and sixth respectively.
"But I don't know. It would have been pretty incredible from 10th, I think, to be fifth, sixth, seventh, or something like that."
With Permane having worked at the Enstone-based team for the entirety of his F1 career - more than 30 years - he heaped praise on Alonso for his current performance, saying the Spaniard is still at the level he was when he won the world title with Renault in 2005 and 2006.
"He's at the very highest level. There's no doubt in my mind," Permane went on to comment.
"I think people asked me this all last year. In my opinion, he doesn't seem any different from when he drove 15 years ago for us."
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Upgrades on the way for Imola
With Chief Technical Officer Pat Fry explaining to RacingNews365.com that Alpine had been very cautious about the stiffness of the floor of the A522, Permane revealed a new, upgraded floor will be on the way for Imola.
"We've got a nice upgrade coming in Imola – we have a new floor," he said.
"I think that'll just be for one car at the moment. It was planned for Miami and we've managed to pull it forward for Imola – I'm very confident there."
While the A522 was strong in Australia, Permane suspects it could be a machine that only suits a specific type of circuit.
"[The car] might be a little track specific," he explained.
"We struggled a bit in Bahrain while here, [in Australia], we've been pretty happy. I don't think Imola is too dissimilar to here. There's some high-speed corners, change of direction, that sort of thing."
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