Why Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso, of all people, can feel like a big winner after the Formula 1 weekend in Brazil
How closely, dear readers, did you study the pictures of the podium ceremony after the 2023 Sao Paulo Grand Prix in Brazil? A cursory glance was probably enough to make you realize: Only one of the three drivers on the podium was really happy. And it wasn’t winner Max Verstappen or Lando Norris in P2. It was third-placed Fernando Alonso.
I had already let him sleep the best twice this year: After the Formula 1 opener in Bahrain, when the Aston Martin form had proven to be “real”; and after the Dutch Grand Prix, after Alonso had finished in the top 3 for the first time in weeks. And I dare say: he might sleep even better after Sao Paulo than after Zandvoort.
Rumors drive Alonso up the wall
Because what headlines haven’t there been in recent weeks? Aston Martin has really crashed, sometimes only driving at last year’s level; team boss Mike Krack finally admitted that Lance Stroll was criticized internally; Alonso was rumored to be moving to Red Bull or ending his career.
The latter in particular made Alonso very angry. According to Sky England, Alonso is not even thinking about quitting. Nor is he thinking of leaving Aston Martin. Alonso feels more comfortable in Lawrence Stroll’s team than ever before in his Formula 1 career, a close confidant explained when asked.
And what helps in a situation like this? Right: a presentable result. That’s what Alonso achieved in Brazil.
Of course, not all that glitters is gold. The fact that he was beaten by team-mate Stroll in qualifying, for example, is at least a blemish. But by 0.043 seconds, that can happen. Otherwise, Alonso doesn’t have much to blame himself for: He got what he could out of the AMR23 – or even more.
The masterpiece against Perez on the last lap
Because Alonso can’t actually finish third in the Grand Prix with this car. Period.
The fact that he managed it anyway speaks volumes for him. The way he defended for laps against Sergio Perez in the superior Red Bull in the final phase was absolutely worth seeing. And that despite the fact that Perez had better top speed and was also equipped with the DRS overtaking aid. An overtaking maneuver should have been a formality.
But: Perez only caught Alonso on the penultimate lap of the race. Only to be outwitted by Alonso again on the last lap of the race and still only finish fourth.
All you can say is: That was a masterpiece by Alonso that few other drivers in the field could achieve with the same material.
What Alonso triggers at Aston Martin
What this triggers at Aston Martin was evident at the podium ceremony: boundless, honest jubilation from the entire team. And an Alonso who lets the team take part in the award ceremony by handing the bottle of sparkling wine down from the podium into the arms of the mechanics
Is this what someone who’s had enough of it all looks like? Who wants to quit after the season? I don’t think so.
On the contrary: Alonso gives the impression that he is more ambitious than ever. As if he wanted to prove something all the more this weekend after strange rumors had been doing the rounds. As if he wanted to make something clear. And his performance on the race track speaks volumes, perhaps more than ever
The scintilla of truth in the speculation
This can’t hide the fact that Aston Martin has really fallen off compared to Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes. But at least it shows that one thing is still true: Alonso is still one of the best drivers in Formula 1, whether the car is at the front or not. And everyone would be well advised never to underestimate this Alonso.
Because perhaps there really is a grain of truth in the speculation: That at least secretly some team bosses wish they had Alonso in one of their cars. With performances like in the Grand Prix in Brazil, you could understand that all too well.
That’s why I believe that the third-last race weekend of the year could hardly have ended better for Alonso in many respects. The relaxed night’s sleep afterwards is just the bonus
Agree? Contradiction? Let’s talk!
You think similarly? Or completely different? Then let’s talk about it: Feel free to follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, where I’ll be happy to discuss this column – and other Formula 1 and motorsport topics in general – with you.
And who didn’t sleep well after the race in Brazil? As always, you can find out in editor-in-chief Christian Nimmervoll’s sister column