Fernando Alonso was chuffed with his return to the podium in F1 Qatar GP but was wary of Sergio Perez in late stages who got stuck due to strategy.
Already Alpine looked strong on Friday and Saturday in F1 Qatar GP and they followed it up with a good show in the race as well with Alonso running in the podium positions for pretty much all of the grand prix. Teammate Esteban Ocon was in the Top 5 fight.
So much so that Alonso asked Alpine to push Ocon into defence mode against Red Bull’s Perez, who was the only thorn for the Spaniard in the podium fight especially after Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas dropped back due to the puncture he had.
Perez did run third for a brief period but a conservative tyre strategy of two stops pushed him back after his fine recovery from 11th. He was getting back up to third until the late Virtual Safety Car period which pretty much sealed his fate.
Even with VSC, it was not clear if Perez would have passed Alonso, but with punctures around and the Spaniard’s tyres having run more than 30 laps, it would have been close. The Alpine driver, though, relished the chance to be on the podium once again.
His last came in 2014 Hungarian GP with Ferrari and after a tough run with McLaren, Alonso finally had a break to be back on the F1 podium. “It feels good,” he said. “Obviously, a long wait from the last podium. 2014, and yeah, happy for this one. I think we executed a good race, one-stop strategy, and yeah, the car was great all weekend long and yesterday in qualifying the pace obviously helped to start at the front. Also, with the penalties of this morning.
“We overtook Gasly in Turn 2, that also helped our race, to have a little bit cleaner air and yeah, obviously a long wait. Your career sometimes goes up and down. I had wonderful moments two, three years ago winning Le Mans, winning the World Championship in Endurance etc, but obviously coming back now in preparation for 2022, and the new rules and have this podium now, at the end of the year, it feels really nice, and I think we are more ready than what we were 10 months ago,” summed up Alonso, who stated that he felt okay with one-stop but had some worries with Perez behind.
“I don’t think it was too bad for us,” he said. “It seems that our car is kind on tyres. We did one-stop also in Brazil last week and today I think we had some margin to keep pushing a little bit more, but you never know, and Checo was coming quite fast at the end.”
The points collected has helped them to have a good gap of 25 points against AlphaTauri in the fight for fifth. With just two races remaining, it seems like the job is done. Among all the greetings, Alonso also had one from Honda with whom he had a bitter run the last time when he raced for McLaren
“Finally, congratulations to our former Honda colleague Fernando Alonso on his podium finish. He drove a great race, showing excellent tyre management skills,” stated Honda’s Toyoharu Tanabe, in their post-race press release.
Honda has come away for too ahead now since their time at McLaren. They are fighting for both the championships and a podium for Perez was crucial to close in to Mercedes, especially after Bottas did not score. The Mexican agreed that Red Bull were in two minds with the strategy and they opted to play safe considering the puncture fear.
“We were actually changing it throughout the race,” said Perez to TV media. “I think at some point we were going for one stop then two then one. It wasn’t very clear either for us. I think it was understandable from a team point of view that we had to play that safe there. Definitely, we had the podium pretty much in the pocket.
“With the virtual safety car, I don’t know if that would have been enough but it did prevent us from getting to Fernando there at the end. A bit of a shame but we managed to minimize a bit the damage but I think we should have been on the podium. When you start P11, there is not much you can hope for but we did a very good first stint and I think we were already in that position and yeah fortunately it didn’t work out.”
Here’s Fernando Alonso passing Pierre Gasly: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-qatar-grand-prix-alonso-overtakes-gasly-for-p2.1717047773344247179.html
Here’s Fernando Alonso battling Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-qatar-grand-prix-alonso-leclerc-and-perez-battle-on-lap-28.1717050659351484826.html
Here’s Sergio Perez passing Esteban Ocon: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-qatar-grand-prix-perez-passes-ocon-after-lengthy-battle.1717052322272432050.html
Here’s the race from POV of Fernando Alonso: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-qatar-grand-prix-unheard-radio-fernando-alonsos-podium-battle.1717141545238268032.html
Here’s Max Verstappen on his start and race