Fernando Alonso is hopeful Aston Martin will be closer to Max Verstappen over a race distance at the Canadian Grand Prix courtesy of its latest upgrades.

Aston brought a new floor and engine cover to Montreal, and Alonso will start alongside Verstappen on the front row after Nico Hulkenberg was penalized for a red flag infringement. Given the update to the car, Alonso feels challenging Verstappen for victory is a tall order but he is targeting a smaller deficit over a race distance.

“I think on the new parts, it’s early days, they’re still under evaluation,” Alonso said. “And I think we still need to optimize the setup of the car a little bit now with the new package, which is what we found yesterday. So I think in Austria or Silverstone, we will extract the maximum of it. Yesterday was too short an FP2.

“But happy; the new parts were good and delivering what we were expecting, so that’s another very good sign. And let’s see tomorrow in a dry race if we can challenge Max a little bit. I don’t think that we are at that level, that’s for sure, but in a state of being 20s behind or 30s behind, hopefully we are a little bit closer.

“I think tomorrow we have a chance to put some pressure. I think they had very easy wins until now and hopefully tomorrow they have to push a little bit more … Two seconds behind them; not 20s behind them.”

Despite avoiding the pitfalls of such a tricky qualifying session that saw the likes of Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez drop out in Q2, Alonso felt luck wasn’t on his side to be prevented from beating Hulkenberg’s time before the Haas driver was hit with a grid penalty.

“We’ve been unlucky generally with the red flags today. In Q1 also, I think it was 1s to see the line and then the red flag came just in that moment. And in Q3, it was I think 4s before crossing the line to be on the first row. But we take it.

“I’m extremely happy because it was very complex qualifying to execute and you need constant communication with the team. Sometimes you feel things in the car but then on TV, or on the pit lane, there are different ideas, so you need that feedback — engineer-driver. It was a difficult day but we have a strong chance tomorrow to score many points, so I’m happy.”