Alonso went into qualifying with a grid penalty because of engine component changes and claimed his only intention in Q1 was to set a time within F1’s 107% rule.
The second part of qualifying featured zero running from the Red Bulls and Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso because they too had grid penalties for engine changes, while the Renaults also chose not to set a time to give them 11th and 12th on the grid and free tyre choice for the race.
“For us it’s OK, this is what we’re used to and we follow whatever,” said Alonso when asked by Motorsport.com about the qualifying spectacle.
“For the fans, it’s maybe a problem. It’s more asking the fans what they think to have a nonsense Q1 and a not very important Q2.
“At least I think they enjoyed the F2 race. It’s definitely the most fun part of the day for the spectator.”
Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg, who will line up 12th as his midfield rivals progressed to Q3, admitted there was frustration but said the best tactics for the race need to be employed.
“[It was] boring more than anything,” he said. “It is not what you want to do heading into qualifying.
“Sometimes you have to play the game to come out better tomorrow and we had to do what we had to do today.”
Daniel Ricciardo took no part in Q2 as his Red Bull team has switched to an old-spec Renault engine in Russia.
“It is weird when you know you are not really going out,” Ricciardo admitted. “You wake up and know you are going to do about eight laps or something.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said it was “bizarre” and “not good” when he saw that five cars were not taking part, although his team inadvertently gave the redundant Q2 an anti-climactic end.
Both Mercedes and Ferrari made it through to Q3 using the ultrasoft to avoid starting on the hypersoft tyre, but Lewis Hamilton appeared on the softest compound at the end.
Even if they are trying to progress on slower rubber it is not unusual for leading teams to go out again at the end of Q2 on the softest-compound to a preparation lap in ahead of Q3.
However, the lack of any drama from drivers trying to make Q3 meant Hamilton was centre-stage when he back off exiting the final corner on a flying lap, coasted across the line and avoided setting a quicker time.
McLaren sporting boss Gil de Ferran said that what fans witnessed should at least set up a slightly different race.
“It will create some interest on the race tomorrow because of the different strategic options everybody will have,” he said.
“You can clearly see a lot of people were very focused on tomorrow rather than today.”
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Sutton Images