Analysis: Why Aston Martin made medium tyre call – and did it cost Alonso victory?

2023 Monaco Grand Prix

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After the Monaco Grand Prix Fernando Alonso was quick to reject suggestions that his Aston Martin team had cost him victory by not putting him on intermediate tyres when he made his first pit stop on lap 54.

Alonso defended the decision to fit another set of dry weather tyres, the medium compound, despite the rain which was falling around the track.

But other drivers who pitted shortly before Alonso and also took slick tyres admitted after the race their teams had made a mistake. Did Aston Martin therefore slip up, and could they even have squandered an opportunity to win?

Like Alonso, Pierre Gasly started the race on a set of hard tyres. He rose from seventh on the grid to run third, then came in for a set of the medium compound tyres on lap 47. He said after the race he was “disappointed and confused” with his strategy.

“When we’re running in P3 and I’m going green [in the sectors] and we know the rain is coming, I was in the perfect position to just stay long. I called on the radio I wanted to stay long and benefit from the conditions. And then we boxed and two laps later rain came.”

Pierre Gasly, Alpine, Monaco, 2023
Gasly was frustrated by his pit stop timing
Lando Norris, who started on the medium tyres, was disappointed he missed the opportunity to emulate race-winner Max Verstappen by running the softer tyres until he was able to pit for intermediates.

“We did the extra pit stop in the middle, which also was probably just something we need to review,” he said. “I obviously went with the information I was given, but maybe I should have questioned a bit more if we should have waited one or two more laps and seen how wet it got before going onto the hard tyre or going onto the intermediates.”

Between those two pit stops for Gasly and Norris on laps 47 and 50 respectively, and Alonso’s pit stop at which he also took slicks on lap 54, six other drivers changed tyres. All of them took intermediates:

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Driver Team Lap Time Tyre
Pierre Gasly Alpine 47 16:04:16 Medium
Lando Norris McLaren 50 16:08:48 Hard
Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 51 16:10:46 Intermediate
Lance Stroll Aston Martin 51 16:10:52 Intermediate
Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 52 16:12:35 Intermediate
Alexander Albon Williams 52 16:12:37 Intermediate
Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 53 16:13:18 Intermediate
Logan Sargeant Williams 52 16:13:19 Intermediate
Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 54 16:13:32 Medium
Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 53 16:13:47 Intermediate
George Russell Mercedes 54 16:13:57 Intermediate

Among the drivers to come in was Alonso’s team mate, Lance Stroll, who took a set of intermediate tyres two-and-a-half laps before his team mate. Unfortunately their opportunity to gain information from his experience was lost when he retired soon afterwards.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Monaco, 2023
Starting on hard tyres allowed Alonso to run long
The rain had only fallen on part of the circuit at this time and the first drivers to fit intermediate tyres did not immediately produce quicker lap times than those on slicks. So while some drivers felt intermediates were worth considering, it was not yet clear they were absolutely essential.

However the slick-shod runners’ lap times were deteriorating. The question Aston Martin faced was whether the rain was going to worsen to the point where intermediate tyres became essential, or would halt and the track would dry out.

They had to balance that against their race situation. Alonso had started the race on the hard tyres and Verstappen ahead was on mediums. While Verstappen’s tyres were less well suited to such a long first stint, the softer compound was the better thing to have as rain fell and temperatures dropped. But although Alonso reported being uncomfortable on his hard tyres, his lap times were close to Verstappen’s.

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Before the rain fell, Alonso’s race engineer Chris Cronin alerted him to the possibility of a shower. However they were not initially concerned it would lead to significant rainfall. Their priority was building a gap over other lapped cars behind them, to minimise the amount of traffic Alonso would have to get through after his pit stop:

Alonso What are the threats? Basically.
Cronin So mainly rain in about 15 laps, potentially.
Alonso I mean if we stop, what will be the threat
Cronin Nothing Fernando, nothing. It’s just going through that traffic again.
Alonso Okay, copy, understood. So prepare a super safe pit stop.
Cronin So at the moment, if we keep this pace, maybe six laps and you’ll clear Bottas and that’s only one left, so that would be good.
Alonso No problem.
Cronin Okay so you’ve cleared Albon and Zhou.
Alonso Yeah take some margin ’til we clear, three seconds or whatever
Cronin Yeah copy Fernando. So track temp is dropping. So you could definitely lean on the tyres laterally. Just a bit of care longitudinally.

The team took note that Verstappen ahead was being warned about rain. Their expectation at this early stage was that the rainfall would be light.

Alonso mentioned his preference for “fresh rubber” at this stage. As he’d started on hard tyres, if conditions remained dry enough he would switch to mediums. This promised to hand him an advantage as Verstappen would likely have to fit hards. Aston Martin had better tyre warm-up than Red Bull, and with the rain lowering the track temperatures the circumstances were playing into Aston Martin’s hands.

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Cronin And Fernando just a check on aero balance. Check on aero balance.
Alonso It’s okay.
Cronin Copy that. Copy.
Cronin So Verstappen has mentioned a bit of rain, small spots of rain, turns six to eight.
Cronin Okay, so we have just cleared Magnussen, but we’ll keep going. You’ve got Bottas and De Vries still to go but they’re quite a bit further.
Alonso Obviously, when we clear those guys I think it’s safer to stop anyway. In case of rain you think fresh rubber will…
Cronin Yeah copy that Fernando, copy. We agree and we’ll just build up on pace

However the rain continued to build. Aston Martin asked Alonso if he wanted intermediates, and he answered that depended on whether the rain would intensify. Aston Martin were convinced the rain would only be brief and light:

Alonso Yeah it’s raining also out of 10.
Cronin Report of rain at turn three, bit of rain turn three.
Alonso Yeah. What is the forecast rain?
Cronin So our forecast is saying it’s light, light rain only.
Alonso Yeah, the hard tyre is not the best, man. I don’t know what to do.
Alonso Yeah raining heavy in seven. Very slow.
Cronin Is it still medium tyres, though? Still medium tyres? Turn seven.
Alonso How is the pace?
Cronin Slippery track ahead. So similar to Verstappen, very similar to Verstappen. Just have a think if you think it’s inters.
Alonso Depends on the forecast, mate
Cronin We think it is a short shower on the radar.

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While Verstappen stayed out, Aston Martin committed to pitting. Alonso repeated his preference for “fresh rubber”. Had the rain not increased in intensity that would have played into Aston Martin’s hands beautifully, but instead he missed the perfect opportunity to switch to intermediate tyres:

Alonso But we do whatever he does or what?
Cronin Verstappen stayed out, Verstappen stayed out. You’re still clear of Ocon’s pit window. You’re okay to stay out. It’s totally dry here.
Alonso By how much because maybe we fit the dries. We are in the same conditions as them but with fresh rubber.
Cronin Yeah, Yeah, we’re on that. We’re thinking about that. You’re currently pulling away from Ocon
Alonso Yeah, seven and eight probably go for inters but the rest of the circuit will be too dry, I guess. I don’t know mate.
Cronin Okay mate. We’re going to box this lap, please, box this lap. And it will be for mediums. Box. Box.
Cronin So you can do run switch ‘race’, run switch ‘race’.

As Alonso came in he saw other pit boxes laid out for drivers who were all switching to intermediate tyres. He must have suspected at that moment they’d made the wrong call, and just two corners after rejoining the track he indicated he would be back in soon.

Alonso did a superb job to bring his car around again without crashing, as did all the drivers on older, colder slick rubber. Behind him Russell rejoined the track on a fresh set of intermediates and immediately ran off at Mirabeau:

Alonso Okay so check people for inters and things like that.
Cronin Yeah mate, we’re watching. We’re watching. You’re well clear of Ocon, easy. So let’s just warm these tyres up. Safe as you can. Russell behind you has also pitted so you’re all clear behind. Verstappen stayed out.
Alonso Yep. Raining heavy in turn three. Will be inters I think. Yeah raining very heavy in five. Inters next lap.
Cronin Copy mate, understood.

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Aston Martin had gone into the race determined to play the “long game”, Alonso said afterwards. Starting on hard tyres gave them greater flexibility if rain arrived. Their superior tyre warm-up promised to play into their hands if the rainfall was not quite enough to trigger a switch to intermediate tyres.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monaco, 2023
Aston Martin let Red Bull “off the hook”, said Horner
Given the lap times of the drivers who pitted before them, it’s wrong to say they absolutely should have brought Alonso in for intermediate tyres on lap 54. But choosing to bring him in for intermediate tyres at that stage made little sense. However unhappy he was with his tyres, his lap times were fine.

At the front of the field, Red Bull knew they had an eight-second gap over Alonso, and could afford to be patient and wait to see whether the rain got worse. “We had so much margin, we didn’t need to pressure and get that decision wrong,” said team principal Christian Horner. “We had the time and the circuit. It wasn’t like it was flooding with rain.

“So that gave us the ability, we could lose four, five, six seconds on an in-lap and still come out ahead of Fernando. And when we saw him leave the pits on slicks, there’s was a question of, okay, don’t even try.”

Alonso had 24 seconds in hand over the next car behind when he came in, so Aston Martin’s reasoning should have been the same. As Horner put it, it “let them off the hook”.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff went further saying, “that would have won them the race, I guess.” Whether that’s the case or not is a question which will remain unanswered. But while Alonso initially insisted his team made the right decision and Verstappen would have won whatever the conditions, he may change his mind once he’s had a chance to study all the data.

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2023 Monaco Grand Prix

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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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28 comments on “Analysis: Why Aston Martin made medium tyre call – and did it cost Alonso victory?”

  1. During the radio exchange, Alonso twice said he does not know what to do. He could not interpret the conditions. The team also could not interpret the condition. Alonso was around 8-10 seconds of Verstappen when the rain came in. The additional pitstop for inters took him totally out of contention. It was definitely an opportunity lost for Aston Martin.

  2. Maybe, maybe not, but even if he went for the intermediates already the first time in the pit lane, he wouldn’t have necessarily gained enough to leapfrog Max when he pitted from the following lap.

    1. I don’t know, he gained over 8 seconds in two laps around his pit stop for mediums. He could have gained 10+ had he went for inters. That would have granted him a safe advantage over Verstappen. Whether the RBR could have overtaken him later is another matter.

      1. Jimmy Cliff
        29th May 2023, 20:58

        Alonso went straight coming out of the tunnel, also Max was taking it easy knowing Alonso was far behind and also had to pit again for inters.

        If Alonso had pitted for inters, Max would have gone faster and if Alonso still went straight after the tunnel he would be investigated if he had overtaken Max.

      2. At the very least it’d have made it interesting to see if verstappen could overtake him again, likely not.

    2. Had Fernando picked a set of Inters, Verstappen would’ve pitted the next lap to cover that. By doing so he would have created the opportunity to go to whatever slick available when the inters were done…
      Other cars that switched to the Inters were driving about the same laptimes as before their stop, so the advantage in lap 54 was not yet that important.
      So no way Alonso would pull an outlap 8 seconds faster than what Max was doing. The only sensible thing was keep running until the rain situation became either black or white, and keep within the pit window of Verstappen.

      1. Yeah I don’t see where Wolff is coming from. Alonso had no route to getting track position on Max, he would not have got have got ahead of Max’s pit window in a single lap if he’d been given inters instead of mediums. If Max had stopped first, Alonso could not have over-cut him, as the track was getting wetter.

        As it was, “extra” pit stop for mediums was free anyway – there was no cost to it.

  3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    29th May 2023, 15:13

    Aston Martin had to go for it. After missing pole narrowly, they had to capitalize on any major opportunity and I think this may have been it. A maiden victory at Monaco would have been much more special than P2. After all, Alonso had already been on the podium in 4 out of 5 races and will probably make many more podium appearances over the season.

    1. @freelittlebirds Agreed, and this is where mindsets can lag relative to performance. Aston Martin is in that position where they cannot win races on genuine pace, but they are far enough up the field to snatch one or two wins over the course of a season if they go all in on some weird situations. Yet they haven’t yet shown that they’re willing to do that, instead taking the races quite conventionally to maximize the result. A normal way to do things in the midfield, where they were.

      Red Bull made this switch quite well with Ricciardo, accepting that they couldn’t fight for the title anymore.

      It’s becoming an ever more pressing concern for Aston Martin, but it played a part here too: Stroll. Based on the performance of the car, Stroll should have been in P3. Whenever a team can go 2vs1 against someone else they have a huge benefit. As it was, the only chance Alonso had was to make up the gap to Verstappen in one lap. That’s not impossible if weather conditions get worse fast, but it’s unlikely. There was nothing stopping Verstappen from simply following Alonso’s strategy, because there was no Stroll in P3 he would have had to surrender the lead to.

  4. Depends entirely on one thing, I feel… Was Verstappen’s pace the maximum he could drive or was Verstappen driving Alonso’s pace after getting a comfortable margin on Alonso? I suspect it’s the latter, as Max is often, and was this race, capable of keeping the gap to the person behind at an almost exact number. Even if that guy behind him speeds up one lap and closes the gap, it’ll be back to what it was within another lap, at most two.

    1. I think @sjaakfoo it was relatively clear that once he was ahead over 10s that Verstappen managed his pace to eke out the mediums as well as he could, and though in his pre-pitstop bit of wet we did see some tricky moments, I also think had he really needed to there would have been more risk he could have been taking to be faster.

      Given that, I have doubts whether Alonso could have really won it. But, in hindsight, the extra pitstop certainly took AM’s only opportunity of trying for it.

  5. All things considered, I feel Aston Martin should’ve gone for the jackpot, Ocon wasn’t so close that Alonso would lose P2. Even if Verstappen was indeed faster than Fernando, Monaco is narrow enought to keep a Red Bull behind for a few laps.

    1. Yes, even in the rain, you need to be WAY faster to have a chance to overtake, even then it’s not a given.

  6. With hindsight it’s always easy. Alonso should have switched to Inters but there is no reason to think that Max would have lost more than 8 seconds and slotted behind Alonso after his pitstop. The switch to mediums at that moment was the only logical choice for AM they could have won the race on mediums if the rain didn’t continue and they would have been second anyway. So I think it was a bit of a gamble but the right call.

    1. He didn’t need 8 seconds, he needed less than 2. Look at the gap on lap 55. Could Verstappen have gone faster around lap 54-55 if he knew Alonso had pitted for inters? I don’t believe it, given his shunt.

      1. I don’t understand this logic. If Alonso pitted for Inters on lap 54 don’t you think Max would gave pitted for inters om lap 55? That still would have given him the 8 s. Or am I missing something?

        1. You’re not. Max would have been pitted for inters straightaway – next lap – if Alonso had. Alonso would not have made an undercut.

      2. Red Bull would pit Max for Inters the moment Alonso swap to that as they were watching what Alonso would switch into.

  7. I thought AM had a real opportunity but seeing Toto’s comment convinced me they probably didn’t

  8. Rewatching the race on F1TV, Alonso enters the pit for inters at the same time Max is about to exit them, so it’s all about if you believe Alonso would have been faster enough on his inters outlap to cover the main straight and pass Max, I don’t think he would’ve made it, it would have giving us a much better ending to the race with Alonso right behind Max on a 1 lap warmer tyre but is still Monaco and I don’t see Alonso instantly passing him.

    But hey it’s a gamble had the rain stopped or kept the same we would be praising AM instead, they went for the more boring option since they could cover Ocon and it didn’t work this time.

    AM got more important issues anyway, they’re gonna be overtaken by Mercedes all because of Stroll not driving even close to what he should, it’s really time for Lawrence to drop his son if he wants to have a championship.

    1. I agree with the first part of your analysis but I don’t think they went for the more boring (safe) option. They made a gamble what if the rain would easy down and they could have stayed on the mediums and Max had to switch to the hard tyres. I think it would have given Alonso a much better change to pass Max on the better tyre than both on the inters. It didn’t work but it was probably their only change to win the race.

  9. The Dolphins
    29th May 2023, 21:38

    Red Bull’s pace is something else compared to the rest of the field. Alonso’s comment after his qualifying run was genuine, he is punching above their weight as far the car’s performance is concerned. This is why Aston Martin’s strategy was to start on the hard tyres, they knew they had to try an alternate strategy. Unfortunately the hard compound hindered their race pace further, allowing Max to open that gap to Alonso and regardless if they chose the Inters before Red Bull I’m not convinced the gap was close enough that Alonso would have come out from after Max’s stop; regardless what outsiders (Toto and Christian) may speculate.

    1. Good point, Alonso could have been right behind Max if he’d started on mediums (could being the operative word, as the AM might have used up the medium tyres before lap 54). But starting on the same strategy as a faster car in front isn’t a route to getting ahead of that car.

      One thing I’ve not seen mentioned is the fact that rain was forecast for Monaco in the afternoon, at 4pm, it just wasn’t in F1 weather service forecast (or of it was, at a low probability).

  10. I think Alonso’s stop for mediums made perfect sense from the point of view of securing second place. The gap to Ocon was big enough that he was going to come out ahead, and if conditions worsened and he needed to pit again for intermediates, everyone else would be doing so as well, so there was no risk of losing the place. The prospect of going for the win clearly never occurred to Aston Martin.

  11. In this age of budget caps and limits on the number of track personnel I’ve wondered if teams do still employ spotters. I rather think they don’t. Not sure they use meteorologists either.

  12. We all know that Fernando extracts more out of his cars than they’re capable of – because he’s a rare breed. He may very well be flattering the car. Of course Lance can’t match Alonso – nobody can.

    1. The driver can never go beyond the car, it’s only a question of how much of its potential can the driver extract out of it.

      Stroll is just doing awful, that car is the clear 2nd fastest, the only non Red Bull car to have multiple podiums, Stroll is only 22% of AM points, he’s this year Ricciardo, leaving Alonso basically by himself to challenge the WCC, put Hamilton on AM and you know that AM would be the clear 2nd in the WCC closer to the Red Bull than just 1 point ahead of Mercedes.

      Stroll is now only 6 points ahead of Ocon and is 15 behind Leclerc who has the same amount of DNFs as him.

  13. “Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff went further saying, “that would have won them the race, I guess.”
    It seems somebody have learned something afterwards (no, no, no, Michael…).

Comments are closed.