Applause mingled with flashes when Laurent rossi sat yesterday between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon at the gates the hospitality from Alpine in Losail. It was the moment of the group photo, with the commemorative trophy and the bottle of champagne, together with all the displaced personnel. The CEO of the team suddenly nailed it: “The Plan is working“, proclaimed to general delirium. Alonso, who came to analyze each data in the briefing with his engineers, he still wanted to reserve more smiles for the cameras, while Marcin budkowski and Davide brivio, the heads that complete the Alpine tricephaly and Alain Prost, your non-executive director, remain in the background. Even if they were reluctant to admit it publicly, no one at the top could fully explain their leader’s astonishing podium in Qatar.
Just a week ago, shortly before taking the plane in Sao Paulo, Alonso himself had discouraged his own fans. “I understand that there are people who say: ‘It is time to make a podium in Qatar’, but there will not be, because during 19 races we have only been eighth or ninth.” However, after Friday’s double free session and Fernando’s intimidating speed through qualifying, Budkowski was already rubbing his eyes as he saw the clear superiority of his A521 to Ferrari or McLaren. “I have to admit that we do not fully understand this change in performance, although perhaps it is due to a combination of factors: a mix between the characteristics of the circuit and the great work of our engineers with the tires and with the configuration,” he analyzed. And that the Pole, at that time, did not have the most unbalancing factor. The one that Alonso contributed.
Gasly on the outside
The double punishment of Max verstappen and Valtteri Bottas, known less than two hours before the start, had elevated Fernando to third place, his best position on the grid since the 2013 Brazilian GP. From that privileged place, it was not strange to wait for the attack against Pierre Gasly, the man who had wiped out his options at the Turkish GP. “What a stupid guy,” the Alpine leader had shouted on the asphalt of Istanbul Park.
Six weeks later, Alonso achieved his particular revenge against one of the sensations of the season, with a spectacular overtaking around the outside of Turn 2. The Frenchman then seemed like a scared rookie. After all, seven years ago, when Alonso took the podium in Hungary, Gasly was still participating, along with Carlos Sainz, in Formula Renault. That same 2014, Esteban Ocon compete in F3 and Lando norris was fired in Ginetta Juniors. In the absence of what happens in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, Alonso leads the overtaking rankings, with 116, one more than Sebastian vettel and Kimi raikkonen.
Like a hammer
From the start, on the soft tires, Alonso showed better pace than Gasly and opened even more gap in front of Norris. In the first 13 laps, according to the official time table, the A521 fluctuated between 1:30 and 1:31. From lap 14 it started to go down to 1:29 and from 19 to 23, when he went through the garage to change the tires, he never beat 1:28 anymore. In hard shoes, another 34 laps had to be completed before the checkered flag fell.
After rejoining ahead of Max verstappen He did not despair when he was overtaken by the leader of the World Cup. By then he knew his fight would be with Sergio Prez and Valtteri Bottas. A puncture from the Finn on lap 31 caused him to lose two seconds (1: 31.993), although his cruising speed kept him between 1:27 and 1:28. And Prez’s second stop, on lap 40, was already the final chase. Alonso set his best time on lap 46 (1: 26.682), while the Mexican accelerated fully. With nine laps to go, he had a 15-second mattress. The administration of his advantage, always keeping something in case of extreme urgency, was exemplary.
Against Pirelli’s doubts
On Friday, when comparing the telemetries provided by the teams with the data from their simulations, Mario isola He said he didn’t find anything out of the expected. However, the miscalculation of the head of Pirelli was more than obvious and would end up leading to disaster for four drivers. The first, already mentioned, was Bottas, victim of a dramatic blowout when he best sat behind the wheel. Later, Norris dropped to ninth place on lap 50, George Russell dropped down to seventeenth place just one turn later and Nicholas latifi had to abandon only four laps to go.
This scenario seriously compromises the one-stop plan designed by Alpine. Alonso, like Lance Stroll, He had to hurry his game of toughs throughout 34 laps, knowing that the threshold of disaster opens around 30-32. Only thanks to his skill in avoiding Losail’s extremely delicate curbs did they allow him to reach the goal safely.
Also a team effort
The setback on the grid, when conflicting data triggered a minor stir among its engineers, was Alpine’s most delicate moment with Alonso. And it is that the procedure of the stop in boxes This time it was not a problem for the Spaniard, who invested 25,991 seconds in all his journey through the pit-lane. A time only eight tenths slower than Verstappen’s best (25,175) and seven worse than Lewis hamilton (25,235).
As if it weren’t enough, Esteban Ocon He was going to do his part of the role, holding Prez during a passionate duel on lap 46. “I made him lose around three seconds. I just wanted to return to Fernando the favor he had done me in Budapest,” admitted the French, remembering those laps of the Hungaroring in which his partner had denied Hamilton passage. The 10 points scored by Ocon will raise Alpine’s bot to 25, on a Sunday where Alpha Tauri was at zero. Now, the fifth place in the Constructors’ World Cup happens to hold that advantage in the last two races.
No cheat or cardboard
With all these factors on the table, no one can question Alonso’s choice as Sunday’s best driver. His third place was not the result of a series of caroms, in the form of abandonments or neutralizations by the safety cars. Nor was it forged on a circuit with too peculiar characteristics such as Monaco, Hungary or Bak, but on a totally conventional track, with obvious similarities to Montmel, the usual World Championship test bench. The fabulous talent of his podium companions also attested to the legitimacy of his success.
Just a year ago, around this time, Alonso was finishing his preparation for the Renault Young Drivers Test, which he would complete in Abu Dhabi. He could barely add kilometers of tests and a bicycle accident terribly compromised his preseason. After five acclimatization races, the Azerbaijan GP marked a turnaround. “As the season progressed, everything got better,” admitted Alonso yesterday, who had only had some remote podium option at the Hungaroring or Sochi. Today, his 77 points (17 more than Ocon) secure him in seventh place in the World Cup. A mere formality for what should await in the 2022 World Cup.
Reference from elmundo