The last time Fernando Alonso had been on a Formula 1 podium, he had more world championships than Lewis Hamilton. Had passed seven years and four months, 146 races, since that Hungarian Grand Prix in 2014. 2,674 eternal days of drought, of wasted one of the greatest talents in history, which ended in Losail.
Fernando Alonso once again tasted a podium in Formula 1, and he did not do it by chance. He did not take advantage of the misfortunes of others, nor did he have a stroke of luck. Simply based on speed, strategy and risk, he managed to sneak between the unattainable Mercedes and Red Bull. A podium at the height of its legend.
Fernando Alonso was chosen ‘Driver of the day’ by the fans
“Tell Esteban Ocon to defend like a lion”Alonso said on the radio in those last heart attack laps in which Sergio Pérez was recovering time per lap at full speed. Ocon tried, he was brave, but it was to stop Red Bull. Its failure put more inri in the brilliance of Alonso’s work in Hungary, and against Lewis Hamilton.
Alonso had worked that podium better than anyone. Starting with qualifying, where he not only set an excellent time but also slowed at the last minute when he saw the yellow flags, which neither Max Verstappen nor Valtteri Bottas did. Not being too smart on Saturday was the first key to the podium.
Then Alonso had high hopes of even passing Hamilton at the start, but the start was not as good as he would have liked. Still, he risked to give Pierre Gasly an almost suicidal overtaking on the outside, controlling on the one hand the limit of the track and on the other the limit of the grip of its own tires.
The pass to Gasly was essential to have clean air in the first laps, but still Alonso’s race pace was devastating. Simply inexplicable. The Asturian rider started riding 1:28 low with those soft tires that theoretically should wear out fast, but in the end allowed him to go even longer than Pérez.
That was the key to the race. Alonso managed to lengthen softer tires more than Pérez, and still maintain a very high lap pace. The Mexican had to force them in his comeback and that forced him to take an additional step down the pit lane. Red Bull opted for two stops for its second driver, and failed.
“Tell Esteban Ocon to defend like a lion” 🦁November 21, 2021
Bottas was on his way to becoming another threat, but he also had to stretch his stint too long on medium tires and ended up puncturing the front left wheel. Alonso’s annoyance led Mercedes to risk more than necessary and lose some precious points for the constructors’ world championship.
Classification, departure, rhythm and strategy. Four of the five pillars for Alonso’s podium were already in place, but it was a fifth to savor the champagne with a car that in Losail was two seconds less than those that were surrounding him: luck. And it appeared in the last turns, when Pérez had been recovering to the beast.
The two Williamses also punctured their left front tires, and in the case of Nicholas Latifi forced him to park the car off the track. Michael Masi, the race director, took out a Virtual Safety Car that avoided stress in the last laps for Alonso. After brushing against him in several races, the podium was finally real.
Now Alonso is the rider who has taken the most Grands Prix to make a podium again, 146, and the second-longest between two consecutive podiums after Alex Wurz, who had to wait seven years, nine months and eleven days between Silverstone 1997 and Imola 2005. But the most important thing is what this means for Alpine.
Not only because the French team has 25 points while Alpha Tauri leaves Losail empty, which almost ensures the fifth position of the constructors’ world championship, but because Alpine confirms there are wickers for the plan: Fernando Alonso is still in top shape, his return is already a success and now he just needs a good car to fight for the world championship.
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