Alonso completes one of his memorable tasks to return to the podium

It is difficult to measure what can be done in 53 thousandths. A blink, a sigh or a podium to end several months of nightmare. Don Fernando Alonso Díaz demonstrated, once again, that he is one of the few athletes who can never be considered dead. After two consecutive retirements, with Aston Martin in the mud and on a circuit, Interlagos, one of those that make drivers legends.

The podium achieved by Alonso in the Brazilian Grand Prix can only be summarized with the most hyperbolic and epic language. His eighth for the season, first since August and more than possibly last of the year, since neither Las Vegas nor Abu Dhabi seem very favorable for him. While Max Verstappen achieved an official victory for him, the 17th of the year, and Lando Norris saw himself second again, Alonso was the one who raised a packed stand that, at times, competed in its shouts towards the Spaniard with those of the legendary and very present Ayrton Senna.

With this result, Alonso not only regains his spirit, but also escapes in the classification from that uncomfortable tie in the overall standings of the World Championship that he had with Carlos Sainz, who lived the entire race in fear of a mechanical failure like the one that marred the participation of your partner. The Madrid native, sixth at the end, was once again Ferrari’s best. And the only one at the finish line.

As a prologue to what was going to happen at the start, Charles Leclerc crashed on the formation lap when he had a hydraulic system failure. Sainz, who feared that his partner’s problem would repeat itself, was very graphic afterwards: that clutch had to be thrown in the trash when arriving in Maranello. The Monegasque started second, so a priori it could have been good news for Lance Stroll or Fernando Alonso, but they had no luck there either. Both were stuck at the start, although the biggest problem was not just that.

And at the start, Alex Albon collided with the two Haas, causing a ‘strike’ that affected Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Piastri and Ricciardo in different ways. The FIA ​​did not think about it: red flag and everyone to the pits to restart the test with a ‘new’ grid, with Verstappen first, Norris (who made a spectacular start) behind and Hamilton and Alonso third and fourth, respectively. Third place lasted just long enough for Stroll, something that did not surprise anyone, although neither of the two Aston Martins did well. It took Alonso two corners to get rid of his teammate before the break, which was good for him for the restart afterwards.

At the start Alonso pulled the plugs. While Verstappen and Norris started unstoppably, the Spaniard saw how Hamilton could be one of his victims and did not hesitate. After resisting Russell in the Senna ‘S’ of the first variant, in the fourth corner he threw the car at Hamilton on the inside to gain third position and face that first part of the race in the podium area.

Tire management was the protagonist at that time. It was clearly seen when Verstappen allowed himself to be hunted by Norris to the point that the McLaren driver managed to poke his nose into him in a DRS area, and then pulled back and took him out in just two laps for almost two seconds. The three-time world champion had to conserve wheels, as did Hamilton, fourth, causing a train behind him that left Alonso, third, in a no-man’s zone. That strategy of going weaker at the beginning of the seven-time champion benefited Sergio Pérez, who after taking off Russell did the same with Hamilton himself. This fight was perfect for Alonso, who continued to hold on in third place right at the end of the relay with the soft tires.

Alonso resists

Aston Martin’s strategy was to use Stroll as the spearhead. The Canadian, in a totally unusual way, was a tough rival for the Mercedes, demonstrating that the medium tires gave an extra boost to the green cars. In fact, this information made Alonso think about how many laps he could last without pushing, which caused Pérez to get noticeably closer to him.

The management of the Mercedes was not very brilliant, since they did not allow Russell to take the lead against Hamilton, to the joy of his pursuers, starting with Carlos Sainz, and his predecessors, since neither Stroll, nor Pérez, nor Alonso They had to fear a possible attack by the black cars. In fact, both Russell and Hamilton ended up sunk offside and fighting for the bottom of the points. While ahead neither Verstappen nor Norris saw how their positions were in danger, Alonso’s management was textbook.

The Spaniard, when he saw that Pérez was already dangerously close to being in a DRS position, pushed to distance himself and guarantee that, at least by the second stop, he would be able to reach a podium position. Nailing the pace until forcing Red Bull to act with the Mexican was critical for the Asturian’s final result. Saving a new set of soft tires was a talisman for Alonso in his fierce defense with Pérez. The Mexican lost just enough in his second stop to not allow the Spaniard to be undercut in this last relay of the race.

In the last lap

The fight between Hispanics for third place was resolved fifteen laps from the end. Pérez’s push meant that Alonso had to play hard to protect himself from his attack, especially when he came to cut him into the DRS zone. Checo saw it so clearly that he implemented a constant fast lap rhythm to prepare for overtaking him.

The counterpart was burning the tires. The Red Bull driver tried to pass the Aston Martin for several laps, but his fierce resistance paid off. Pérez’s pace was better, but the way in which the Spaniard knew how to neutralize him until the penultimate lap was brilliant. Far from giving up, that spurred the best Fernando Alonso and, in the last lap, in the only area where it was possible, in turn 4 and on the outside, he returned the overtake and from there until the end and with the hearts of the fans in the mouth.

Checo opened DRS at the entrance to the finish line, he arrived with more than 25 kilometers per hour ahead of Alonso… and he didn’t hit him. Alonso entered third at the finish line to achieve his eighth podium of 2023 – the same as Pérez has done all year – by just a few centimeters. The difference in which Pérez and Alonso entered sums it all up: 53 thousandths.

Alonso: “When he passed me two laps from the end I thought: ‘Okay, this is over'”

The smile with which Fernando Alonso stood on the podium for the eighth time this season and first since the summer sums it all up. It was one of his great performances, one of those podiums that he will remember for years. That defense of more than ten laps on Sergio Pérez and, above all, that ‘overtaking’ in turn 4 of the last lap will go down in the annals of his best races in more than 20 years.

“When he passed me with two laps to go I thought: ‘Okay, this is over.’ ‘The podium is no longer possible,’ he admitted, although he later found himself with a stroke of fortune. “I saw that Checo made a small mistake in turn 1, he braked a little late, and I said: ‘Okay, well I’m going to turn 4,'” he said before climbing into the box. At that point, where on Saturday he demonstrated his worth in a great overtaking of Hamilton in the sprint, it was where he showed that that podium already had a name and surname.

This result, the second best of the season (25 points, more than in the previous six races) after the one achieved in Australia, puts an end to a terrible autumn that Aston Martin was having. For this reason, Alonso knew who he should dedicate it to. «We have been suffering for a couple of months now, especially in the last two races, with two abandonments. So this podium is for them, for everyone in the factory. “We continue fighting until the last lap,” he insisted.

«In the end I didn’t know if there was one lap or two left, we went wheel by wheel. From the outside it was possibly more exciting,” he pointed out to Dazn’s microphones. «It has been a hard three weeks. We arrived in Austin not very prepared, the sprint turned us upside down and we abandoned. The same in Mexico. And here, with all the fatigue and after the repair on Saturday, the team deserved it,” he said, smiling.

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