Fernando Alonso earning third at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday came as a surprise. For much of the second half of the Formula 1 season, he has been a non-factor and maybe even a bit of a disappointment.
The last time he visited the podium occurred at the Dutch Grand Prix at the end of August, when he took third. Over the following six races, the highest he had finished was sixth, and the past two races, he left the track with DNFs.
For teammate Lance Stroll, his fifth-place result might be even more surprising. Though he nabbed seventh at the USGP two weeks ago, he has struggled to finish in the points during the second half of the 2023 schedule, with his previous points finish being the Belgian GP when he took ninth.
For the team, this result is a massive boon in its constructors championship fight. McLaren sits ahead of Aston Martin and had looked to be pulling away on its way to securing fourth. Even though Lando Norris finished second at the Brazilian GP, Oscar Piastri’s day without points for McLaren fell Aston’s way.
The double-points finish for Aston now has the team just two points behind.(Neither team will be catching Ferrari or Mercedes for third.)
The day started off in frustrating fashion, as the Astons formed a second-row lockout, with a double-podium in the range of possibility, only to watch their advantage evaporate as both cars bogged down at lights out. Norris and Lewis Hamilton both sped by dropping them back a few places. But behind them, Alex Albon served as a pinball between the two Haas flippers. The ensuing red flag allowed both drivers to regroup.
At the second lights-out opportunity, Alonso catapulted Hamilton, while Stroll held position. From there, the two found themselves enjoying a rather clean race.
Well, that is, until the final 12 laps, when Sergio Perez began hounding Alonso like a bad shadow. For 10 laps, Perez sat within DRS range and did everything BUT pass Alonso.
The breakthrough came on lap 70 when Perez slid by on the front straight.
Alonso then stalked Perez like an omen, watched as Perez slid just a schoche wide at turn 1, then pounced. From there, Alonso did everything he could to make his Aston as wide as possible. Perez still had a shot at the end as they came to the finish, using the slipstream and DRS to nag Alonso as they came down the straight.
In the end, Alonso held on to take the final podium position by inches.
Or from a different perspective:
On the thrilling battle with Perez, Alonso said, “For me, it was like 30 laps that I had the pressure from Checo [Perez]. But when he passed me two laps to the end, I thought, ‘OK, this is gone; the podium is not possible anymore.’ But he braked a little bit late into [turn] 1, and I said, ‘Okay, I go for it into [turn] 4.”
He added how much the third and fifth meant.
“This is a phenomenal result for the team. We’ve been struggling for a couple of months already, especially the last two events with two retirements. So this podium is for them, for everybody in the factory. We keep fighting until the last lap.”
Alonso also tapped into how the team has focused this year, at one point contemplating a goal of working on the 2024 car.
“These cars are so complex aerodynamically, so we’ve been experimenting a little bit to find the direction for next year,” he said. “We thought about forgetting this year, but we’re still competing, so happy … and now to Vegas.”
About the author
As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.
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