Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Suzuka, 2022

“What a mistake. What are you doing?” Inside Alonso and Vettel’s Suzuka battle

2022 Japanese GP team radio transcript

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Fans at the Japanese Grand Prix witnessed what may by the last scrap between two drivers who fought over championships in the previous decade – Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

Alonso applied huge pressure to his fellow multiple champion for lap after lap, before gambling on a late pit stop to chase after his rival. The pair began the final lap nose to tail – but due to confusion over the race distance their teams weren’t even sure the last lap had started.

The pair tangled at the race’s original start. Vettel made a flying getaway from ninth on the grid but skidded off as he tried to pass his rival on the outside of the first corner.

The Aston Martin driver managed to get away without hitting anything, but had fallen to 16th place. Following the two-hour stoppage, he was quick to seize on a strategic gamble to get back the places he’d lost.

Alonso and Vettel’s Japanese Grand Prix radio messages

Before the cars were sent out to resume the race, drivers were briefed on the situation. In Vettel’s case, the team expected that as there was only three-quarters of an hour left, it would be impossible for the race to run long enough for full points to be awarded.

Vettel’s race engineer Chris Cronin therefore advised him that he needed to reach at least ninth place to score points. That indicates they expected no more than 50% of the race distance to be completed. In the end the race reached 52% race distance, yet the FIA unexpectedly awarded full points.

Lap: 3/28
CroninSo we’re going to start running and we’re probably about 26, 25 laps, including the safety Car laps. So just so you’ve got that in mind each Safety Car lap will knock a lap off of racing from there. And because of the points the way it is this year, you actually have to, at the moment, get up to P9 to get points. I’ll keep you updated on that as we go. We don’t expect any more heavy rain between now and the end of the race.
VettelOkay. And we start behind the safety car.
VettelAnd we do have to start on extremes.
VettelAnd it will be a rolling start.
CroninThat is not confirmed. Yeah, that’s not confirmed.
VettelYeah, copy.
CroninAnd again, even if it’s a standing start and you decide to go to inters, we can change tyres straight away and send you down to the end of the pit lane and you’ll just get released when the Safety Car’s passed.
CroninSo it is a rolling start, confirmed it will be a rolling start.
Vettel’s first-lap error had left him mired in the pack

Under the rules all drivers had to use full wet weather tyres while circulating behind the Safety Car. Vettel had been advised he needed only to follow the Safety Car into the pits before the restart if he thought the conditions were good enough to switch to intermediates.

Lap: 4/28
AlonsoRolling start?CroninSo Safety Car will enter the pits this lap.
LoosAffirm. So yeah lights are out on the safety car so it’ll be rolling start procedure.VettelCopy.
CroninIt will be a rolling…
VettelWhat’s the weather forecast?
CroninSo we think this intensity until the end of the race. A little bit very light rain like this until the end of the race.
VettelHow many laps is the race?
CroninAbout 22 – 21, 22. You can reset your brake balance before the restart.

Vettel indicated he wanted a slightly reduction in his front wing angle, then headed for the pits as the race restarted. Alonso, 10 places ahead in the queue, asked if he should stay out and was told to:

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Vettel and Latifi pitted at the first opportunity

Vettel pitted at the same time as Nicholas Latifi and jumped ahead of him when they came in. As soon as the other teams saw the lap times the pair were able to do on intermediate tyres they began bringing their drivers in.

However Alonso was two places behind team mate Esteban Ocon, and following him into the pits would mean losing time as they changed to intermediate tyres.

Mercedes faced the same dilemma and brought both their drivers in on the same lap, George Russell losing time while Lewis Hamilton was being serviced. Alpine chose to bring Ocon in and leave Alonso out:

Lap: 5/28
LoosOkay so for info our safety car window will be open after the restart.VettelI think I need a quarter to half a degree less.
AlonsoOkay. Stay out?VettelYep, yep, yep.
LoosAffirm.CroninCopy, Sebastian, copy. So we’ll be go one for the restart. We’ll be go one for the restart. You’re still plus one in your brake balance. We’re happy with that.
LoosJust a reminder, no overtaking until the control line please, no overtaking until the control line. Recharge off. Okay so only Vettel and Latifi stopped for intermediates. Will keep you posted.CroninTyre to green inter, tyre to green inter. Green box.
CroninYou’ve got a Williams next to you on your outside, on your left. It’s Latifi.
Lap: 6/28
AlonsoWhere is Russell?CroninIf you want more front end, you can go down on the tool switch.
LoosRussell 2.2 seconds behind.CroninThe back of the pack is 24 seconds ahead.
AlonsoWhat’s the plan?CroninTwo cars in the pits, Norris and Bottas. Two cars pitted, everyone else is still on the wets. Norris has gone out now.
LoosAt the moment, the intermediate does look the quicker tyre. At the moment, a double-stop would delay you.
AlonsoYeah, I know that.

Alpine brought Alonso in the next time around. Meanwhile Aston Martin urged Vettel to keep up his pace to ensure he took maximum advantage from others’ delays.

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Lap: 7/28
LoosRussell three seconds behind. Do one more lap, please. Okay so boxing this lap, boxing this lap for intermediates. And remember…CroninThere will be a busy pit lane. We think maybe right toggle for turn one, two just for protecting the front.
CroninSo there will be people coming out of the pit lane. Use energy if you need it.
CroninSo the three cars ahead of you are Hamilton, Ocon, Perez, they’ve all just come out of the pits. You’ve still got Latifi behind you.
CroninYou’re P10 at the moment. There’s four cars ahead of you that haven’t pitted. Alonso is right in our window.
Lap: 8/28
AlonsoCopy.CroninSo we think it’s about 16 or 17 laps. Just look after the front. Use your torque switch to protect the front.
LoosGo tyre intermediate before you stop please. So boxing this lap.CroninYou’ve got lots of energy if you need it. Alonso is coming out of the pit lane now.
LoosSo we’ll be close with other cars on pit exit.
LoosOkay so Vettel the car ahead Latifi car behind. So their tyres are probably a bit hotter than yours, but still try to bring them in as sensible as possible, please.
Alonso deliberately backed off after cutting the chicane on his way into the pits

On the lap he came into the pits, Alonso cut across the chicane. In the Miami Grand Prix he was penalised for cutting a chicane and gaining an advantage. On this occasion Alonso told his team he backed off at the pit lane exit to ensure he did not benefit from going off.

He did gain a position over the delayed Russell, as did several other drivers, but wasn’t able to keep Vettel behind.

Lap: 9/28
AlonsoI missed the last corner and then I lift off on the pit exit just to not gain any advantage.CroninSo we’ve got probably 18 laps to go, 18. So it’ll be about looking after the fronts, using your switches.
LoosYeah copy that. So car behind is Latifi and then one second behind Latifi is Norris.
AlonsoYeah, tell me [unclear] because I cannot see much.
LoosCopy, Latifi 0.6 behind at the moment.
LoosLatifi one and a half seconds behind now.

Once the pair passed drivers who stuck to their full wets as long as they dared – perhaps waiting for more rain or another Safety Car period – Vettel had picked up 10 places with his gamble on pitting immediately for intermediates.

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Lap: 10/28
LoosAnd gap to Vettel is 3 seconds.CroninSebastian, car ahead is Schumacher, still on wets. Schumacher still on wets. He’s dropping back. Just be careful with him.
LoosOkay so ahead Vettel held up by Schumacher who is still out on extreme wets. Latifi 1.2 behind.
LoosOkay just for info Esteban’s last lap was 48.1, mainly gaining in turn three, four and 15. Let’s be sensible with the front. Still expect about 17 laps.
Lap: 11/28
LoosOkay behind Latifi lost a bit of time behind Schumacher.CroninOkay Sebastian you’re P6 at the moment, P6. Got Alonso 1.6 behind. Hamilton 6.5 ahead.
Drivers had to manage their intermediate tyres as the track dried

With over half an hour of racing still to go on, the drivers had to manage their tyres carefully to ensure the intermediate tyres would go the distance on the punishing Suzuka track.

Lap: 12/28
LoosSo gap to Latifi behind is now three seconds. Currently you’re P7.CroninConsider one click forward on brake balance for the chicane now.
LoosQuite a few other drivers complaining about the fronts now. You’re doing a good job in the high speed. Watch out over slipping in low-speed apex.CroninYou’ve got the right toggle on the whole lap. We think down on the torque switch to turn the diff open off, and then back on again.
Lap: 13/28
LoosSo looks like everyone is trying to manage this situation with the front tyres and trying to go to the end. At the end of this lap expect about 15 laps remaining. And for info lap times are looking good.CroninOkay Sebastian you’re doing basically the same lap time as Ocon and Hamilton ahead, as well as Alonso behind. Latifi behind him is dropping back a bit.
CroninWe think 16 laps to go, 16. Alonso 1.1 behind.
Lap: 14/28
CroninTurn 11, just be careful with the hand brake. You’re right on the limit of rear locking with the hand brake. Alonso 1.2 behind, Hamilton 6 ahead.
CroninAlonso 0.8 behind. Hamilton 5.9 ahead. Alonso 0.7 behind.

It soon became clear to Alonso that passing Vettel on the track would be very difficult. As early as lap 15 he was urging his team to consider making a second pit stop so he could attack his rival with the benefit of fresher rubber.

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Lap: 15/28
LoosSo 14 laps to go.CroninAlonso 0.6 behind. Potentially a bit more rain, 10 minutes.
AlonsoYeah. It will be better not to stop?
LoosYeah, we’re looking at our options mate. At the moment everyone’s weapons are dropping. You’re still one of the better ones out there. Verstappen doing 47.4, for info.
AlonsoYeah obviously I will drive very differently.
LoosOkay understood.
AlonsoI don’t know how aggressive I can be to attack him.
Lap: 16/28
LoosYeah understood. At the moment a normal stop is not a good idea. It drops you in a lot of traffic. 13 laps to go. Safety Car window is open. Safety Car window is open.CroninHamilton 5.7, Alonso 1.1.
CroninSo 13 laps to go, 13. Alonso 0.9 behind. If you can, cool the tyres where you can, cool the tyres.
Lap: 17/28
LoosAnd you’ve got torque three available, torque three.CroninAlonso 0.6 behind. You can go down on the torque switch. Alonso 0.3.
AlonsoYeah, a lot more pace, mate.
LoosYeah copy that.

Alpine were keeping an eye on how quickly Alonso was pulling away from Latifi, Russell and Lando Norris behind. They appeared especially concerned not to drop him behind McLaren driver Norris, as the team is Alpine’s major rival for fourth in the constructors championship.

Lap: 18/28
Loos11 laps to go. Okay so Zhou just stopped for a new set of intermediates that might trigger a few other cars to stop. I’ll keep you posted on that. At the moment staying out. You can press the overtake once before turn 15 before you lift.CroninJust to cover – Alonso is 0.9 behind, you’re okay there – would you take more aero balance if we had to take another set of inters?
VettelYes. More aero balance.
Lap: 19/28
LoosNine laps to go.CroninAlonso’s 0.9. Zhou from the back has pitted for another set of inters so we’ll keep an eye on him. Alonso still 0.8 behind.
AlonsoYeah. I don’t know, mate. I cannot pass.CroninAlonso 1.0.
Lap: 20/28
LoosSo the car behind you now is Russell. He’s still nine seconds behind you. He has clear air and his last lap was a 47.6.CroninAlonso’s 1.6 behind now.
AlonsoI don’t know. What do you want to do? How many places we will lose?CroninSo it’s between eight or nine laps, it’s right on the bubble. Alonso 1 behind.
VettelSeem to have lost radio.
CroninI could hear you then, I could hear you then. So repeat your message. Alonso is 1.4 behind. Can you hear me?
Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Suzuka, 2022
Alonso urged Alpine to consider a second pit stop

Alonso continued to press Alpine. But he still didn’t have enough of a gap over Norris for the team’s liking.

Meanwhile a fault had developed on Vettel’s radio which would make it difficult for the team to tell him when the race was over. He had to rely on his pit board to know how many laps were left.

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Lap: 21/28
LoosAt the moment we lose three places.VettelI think we lost radio there for a second.
AlonsoIt’s not worth trying something? I don’t know.CroninOkay I can hear you, all’s fine, can you hear me?
AlonsoHow many laps?
LoosAt the end of this lap, seven laps to go.

Alpine finally brought Alonso in seven laps after his first suggestion. He felt the call had come too late.

Lap: 22/28
LoosOkay Fernando box this lap, please, box this lap.CroninAlonso 1.7 behind. You’re catching Ocon and Hamilton ahead, they’re currently 4.6 ahead.
AlonsoBox.CroninSo Sebastian go down on torque switch to protect the fronts a bit more. You have been continuously looking after the fronts better than most.
LoosComing out just behind Norris. Ricciardo three seconds behind. Two seconds.
AlonsoI don’t know why it took so much.
LoosJust things had to clear a bit in our pit window.
AlonsoTell me the details with Vettel and Hamilton.

Alonso immediately passed Latifi and was initially catching Vettel by around five seconds per lap. But his tyres couldn’t sustain that pace and he also had Russell to clear.

Lap: 23/28
LoosOkay Vettel is 21 seconds, Hamilton 26.CroninSix more laps, six more laps.
LoosSix laps to go.
LoosOkay next car up the road is Russell, 11 seconds. Lap 16. Vettel at 16 seconds now.
Lap: 24/28
LoosOkay mate that’s five seconds quicker than Vettel.CroninFive more laps. Russell is catching us but he’s six seconds behind. He’s about a second quicker.
LoosOkay so Russell six seconds ahead, Vettel 12 seconds ahead, Hamilton 15.
Lap: 25/28
LoosOkay mate that was one-thousandths off the fastest lap.CroninOkay Sebastian four more laps. Russell is still 5.5 behind.
LoosAt the end of this lap, three laps to go.
LoosVettel seven seconds, Russell two-and-a-half ahead. Can you go SOC four.
Lap: 26/28
LoosOvertake available.CroninJust to keep you updated, Alonso did pit, he’s currently six, seven seconds behind us. He is fast.
CroninThree more laps, three more laps.
Alonso fell short of beating Vettel by just one hundredth of a second

Alonso passed Russell as the last lap began, though Aston Martin did not initially realise it was the final tour.

Lap: 27/28
LoosSOC two is available, SOC two.CroninI know you know this but if you would like more rotation, down on your torque switch. Russell is 2.5 behind, Alonso is three. Alonso is close behind Russell.
LoosPress and hold overtake. This is the last lap, this is the last lap, press and hold overtake.CroninTwo more laps.
CroninObviously you’ve got Alonso is 1.1 behind. This will be the last lap! This is the last lap!

The confusion over whether it was in fact the final lap of the race caused further complications for Aston Martin as Vettel’s radio wasn’t working. Eventually he and Alonso were both persuaded the race was over.

Lap: 28/28
AlonsoI don’t know if the race finished.CroninYou’ve got loads of energy, use energy. This will be the chequered flag at the end of this one. Alonso 0.8 behind, 0.7. Use your energy, you’ve got loads of it. 0.6 behind now. Use your energy, use your energy.
LoosKeep pushing, keep pushing. Keep pushing, mate.VettelWe got him, we got him.
AlonsoThere are others slow.CroninYou beauty!
LoosOkay mate. Okay we’re boxing this lap, mate, box this lap.VettelIs it still going, the race, or is it over?
AlonsoYeah? Sure?CroninChequered flag is out, it’s all over, all over. You beauty!
VettelPlease tell me… You showed me lap one two laps ago, fuck’s sake.
CroninYeah, no, no, it changed, so you are good. The chequered flag has been out. It’s the end of the race. Russell behind you has been told to slow down.
CroninEveryone slow! Slow, slow, slow! Okay everyone in front is slow. You can go to out one, Sebastian. P6. It’s the end of the race.
VettelI didn’t know the race. What is it now? Is over or are we still racing?
CroninIt’s absolutely over.

The two drivers were in strikingly different moods as the race ended. Vettel, though infuriated by his radio problem, was delighted to have bounced back from his lap one error and equalled the team’s best result of the year.

But Alonso felt Alpine should have listened to him sooner, and said it wasn’t the first time the team had compromised his strategy.

LoosYeah, sure, sure. Scenario 12, please, scenario 12. So come in the pit lane.VettelWe got first to the line, though. We got him. If that was the last lap. I’m so lost, man. Where are we? Japan? Suzuka?
AlonsoWhat position we ended up?CroninYeah we’re in Japan, it is Suzuka, you just got P6 by a fraction. You beat him to the line. Well done.
LoosOkay. So the timing screen here says seventh. Just behind Vettel.VettelOkay, I had no radio whatsoever.
AlonsoYeah. What a mistake, eh? I mean strategically, what are you doing this year to me?CroninYeah, you’re crackling to me as well.
VettelI lost the radio probably halfway or 10, 12 laps to go, 15 laps to go. And I just had a lot of crackling, which was a horrible distraction.
CroninCopy that. I don’t know if you can hear me now but you’re P6. You beat him by…
VettelThe pit board showed one lap to go but there was actually two or three. Anyways I guess we got him, yeah, P6.
CroninYeah, yeah, we got him, P6.
CroninIf you hear me, leave it in P1.

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2022 Japanese Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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18 comments on ““What a mistake. What are you doing?” Inside Alonso and Vettel’s Suzuka battle”

  1. I like Nando’s partly sarcastic feedback at the end.

  2. The whole exchange on the Vettel side is questionable as we have no understanding what information from the Aston Martin pits actually reached their driver.

    Without acknowledgement of any specific message from Seb, all or most of the messages from Chris Cronin might as well have been spoken into a void.

  3. ALO lost 23 seconds during that stop, with 3 cars to pass before approaching Vettel. If he’d stop after lap 16, as he asked – he’d return side-by-side with Magnussen, and even a little slower pit stop would left him behind Bottas, possibly Gasly and Zhou. An entire field to pass, giving up track position to everyone. And those tyres would drop off by the time he’d reach Vettel again, as he wouldn’t have as massive advantage as he had.

    Alpine tried to gain as much track position as possible, they missed the perfect window by just one lap. If the race would last for one more lap, as everyone expected – he’d get right behind Hamilton.

    Their gamble didn’t pay off big time, but they didn’t lost anything. But he obviously has to see a sabotage everywhere.

    Not to mention his chicane cut before 1st stop – his delta was about 2.2s, and after the cut, just before pit entrance – 3.2s – he didn’t lift anything, come on. He returned side-by-side with Vettel, about one second ahead of Latifi. Vettel passed him, because of warmer tyres. ALO could’ve lost another position, if he didn’t cut that chicane. Sure, he’d regain that rather quickly, because Latifi, but hey – a fact is a fact. He cut the chicane, gained advantage, and didn’t face any penalty, not even a warning.

    1. It’s sabotage of Alonso by Alpine. You’re just too blind not to see that. They did that in Canada too. They want to ensure Ocon finishes higher than Alonso in the points standings at the end of the season. Watch the Canadian GP replay if you can. It was so frustrating to watch for an Alonso. Ocon will most probably end up higher than Alonso, due to no fault of the latter. There’s just too much influence of race engineers in a driver’s race performance these days in F1, unfortunately.

      And the chicane cutting incident – Alonso cut the chicane but slowed down so as to not gain advantage.

      1. I’m not sure if your response is sarcastic @pt but as an Alonso fan I can’t agree with it.

        For about the 4th time this season Alonso has had a considerable advantage over Ocon in practice and Q1 and Q2 only to mess up the final run/Ocon to mail his. Alonso had to run a lap longer in the first stint to avoid the double stack, and although Alpine were a lap late the second time round the race should have lasted a lap longer, where he would have certainly passed Vettel and been protected from Russell (something unlikely to happen if they hadn’t stopped twice).

        For me Alpine did what they could, but Alonso needs to fix his Q3 form as he’s got Ocon covered everywhere except there this year.

        1. @rbalonso

          For about the 4th time this season Alonso has had a considerable advantage over Ocon in practice and Q1 and Q2 only to mess up the final run/Ocon to mail his.

          It’s always been his Achilles heel. His ultimate one lap pace just lacks that extra tenth, especially on the final run.
          He’s still been better than Ocon in every aspect of a race weekend, including qualifying. Honestly, he’s probably second to Leclerc in points lost by the team and by DNFs this year. With a little more luck, he’d be in front of Norris right now, not behind a teammate who he’s been thrashing.

          It’s a shame, because a near retirement Alonso is still leagues better than a peak Ocon. There’s always points results between teammates that don’t tell us the accurate story, like Kvyat beating Ricciardo in 2015, Hamilton losing to Rosberg in 2016, etc.

          1. Yeah I agree 100% @todfod.

            I suppose this year it’s been highlighted by the unreliability in the car and Ocon taking big points in races Alonso was out like Austria and Saudi Arabia. I think we’ve been spoiled by maulings of Stoffel and Massa which meant Alonso’s key skills were exaggerated by an already favourable start position and pit stop strategy.

            I still think he’ll get enough points to beat Ocon – but in quali against Stroll next year he’ll have to manage his final runs better.

          2. @rbalonso

            I think he’ll beat Stroll every session of every race weekend even if he decides to race till he’s 60. Stroll is arguably the poorest qualifier on the grid, only Latifi is in his league.

    2. Not sure he’s gained that much by cutting the chicane but otherwise it’s really how it went.
      Some people like conspiracies when there is just nothing else than an almost successful gamble at the end.
      He was in a more difficult position than Ocon and with so little actual racing there was few options on the table.
      Let’s hope for a better result next time !

  4. The battle we didn’t see.

    1. The F1 feed often misses exciting stuff. We aren’t here just to watch the top runners romping off on an empty stretch of tarmac.

      1. To be fair, the world feed was plenty busy following the even closer (until the dash from the chicane to the start-finish-line) fight between Charles and Checo in positions 2 and 3.

    2. If you watched the channel 4 highlights you saw barely anything of any battle. I don’t understand why they couldn’t just show the whole truncated race – I assumed they’re allowed to show a set number of minutes of action but if their contract is to show a percentage of the race then it’s a pretty schitty contract.

  5. A real shame production focused only on the top three cars. I would have loved to see this unfold – yet I did watch the race live !
    Good article, thanks !

  6. Talks to much. Last year (Abu Dhabi) he said 2021 was just a warm up, big things are going to happen in 2022… Yeah

    1. Whole career Alonso tactics is to say i’m always fast if i’m not fast there’s someone else to blame

    2. Alonso drove better this season than his title winning years at Renault. It’s clear you don’t pay close attention or you simply dislike Alonso and therefore pretty sure your mind is already made up.

      1. Next year he will drive even better, no doubt. El Plan. Now he can fight, no more sabotage. Oh wait i forgot about Papa Stroll… There’s always something else to blame.

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