Fernando Alonso is already back on the podium for Aston Martin in Formula 1 after the team from Silverstone brought a raft of upgrades to their 2023 car. But the race was anything but easy because there was a problem.
“Good job. Without the problem Verstappen might have…” Fernando Alonso immediately interrupts his race engineer Chris Cronin during the cool down lap:
“Thank you, thank you! Good job guys, I’m really happy!”
He’s done it again, taking his sixth podium of the 2023 Formula One season. That’s twice as many as between 2014 and 2022 combined.
Despite securing his sixth podium of the 2023 Formula One season, Alonso had to contend with driving the entire second half of the Canadian Grand Prix with a “lift-and-coast” technique. The instruction to do so came midway through the race, but Alonso sought clarification after his second pit stop.
“Let me know when I can stop lift-and-coast,” he radios. Cronin replies that he will (but he didn’t until the end of the race), but that he should continue for now. To which Alonso replies:
“I want to win the race, mate!” To which Cronin replied, “I want that, too. But we have to keep doing lift-and-coast.”
Pierre Gasly was absolutely furious with Sainz following this incident that saw him knocked out in Q1 🤬
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 17, 2023
Aston Martin’s decision to play it safe
Mike Krack reveals the reason behind Alonso’s restricted driving:
“After about a third of the race we suspected that we had a problem with the fuel system. We then decided to play it safe. In the end, it turned out not to be. But in such situations you have to drive with what you have.”
Despite the limitations, Krack emphasises that the pace was still commendable. In fact, apart from the Australian Grand Prix, which ended under a safety car, it was only the second time this season that a team finished within 20 seconds of the winning Red Bull.
Although Alonso complied with the instructions, the Aston Martin AMR23 experienced shorter coasting phases in the braking zones. Krack remains realistic, stating, “I believe we could have been a bit faster, but it wouldn’t have been enough to match Red Bull’s level.”:
“I think we could have gone a bit faster, but I don’t think it would have been enough to be on Red Bull level.”
And Alonso? He remains positive: “I don’t think we’ve ever been as competitive this year as we were today. In terms of pace, we were on a par with the Red Bulls!”
Alonso’s positive outlook
He also plays down the lift-and-coast issue: “We talked about the fact that lift-and-coast might be necessary before the race. I was prepared for that and I don’t think it had an impact on the result.” He could not say more in the press conference as he had not yet spoken to the engineers.
Above all, he feels exhausted after the raceMost notably, Alonso expresses his exhaustion after the race, remarking:
“It felt like 70 laps of qualifying. I didn’t have any time to rest. Initially, I thought the race was over, and I would bring [third] place home and focus on the Ferraris further back. But then I caught up to Lewis [Hamilton] and found some extra pace.”
However, the situation changed in the final third of the race. Alonso explains, “In the last 20 to 25 laps, he [Hamilton] suddenly closed the gap rapidly.” Hamilton reduced the margin from 3.5 to 1.4 seconds between laps 50 and 58. Alonso then had to push hard again.
“At that point, I had to push hard once more. The last driver you want to see in your rear-view mirror is Lewis Hamilton. However, I still had some pace left, and in the end, he couldn’t get into DRS range. As I said, it felt like 70 laps of qualifying.”
Despite a minor collision with the wall on lap four, it had no impact on his performance.
“I enjoy these battles”
Despite the challenges, Alonso finds joy in the battles on the track, particularly when competing against drivers like Verstappen and Hamilton. Alongside Alonso, they are the three titans of Formula 1, the only active world champions.
“There is a great deal of respect and talent among us. When you fight against them, you know you can’t afford to make any mistakes. They would seize the opportunity immediately. And they won’t make mistakes themselves,” states the 41-year-old driver.
“We fight hard, but when you overtake someone like Lewis using DRS, as I did today, you know you can trust him. He knows what he’s doing, defends firmly but fairly. The same applies to the start. There’s a sense of awareness and respect that is not always seen in other parts of the field.”
Slow start and tyre strategy
Regarding his sluggish start, Alonso reveals that he hasn’t discussed it with his team yet. While he believes his reaction time was fine, he speculates whether drivers on the opposite side of the grid generally had a better start. He considers the possibility that he was simply on the wrong side but intends to investigate further.
“I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to my team yet. It just felt slow, although my reaction time is still perfectly fine.”
“I don’t know if the drivers on the other side of the grid generally got away better. At least George didn’t overtake me. Maybe I was just on the wrong side. But I’ll have to check that.”
Notably, Alonso opted for hard tires for the final stint, while Verstappen and Hamilton chose mediums. Explaining the decision, Alonso says, “We ran out of medium tyres! With limited time on Friday, we had to take a guess. But I’m satisfied with the choice. The hard tire wasn’t a bad option for our car.”