Alonso explains why he chose not to attack Stroll for sixth place

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso says he settled for seventh place in the Spanish Grand Prix behind team mate Lance Stroll to avoid damaging his Aston Martin.

Alonso started ninth on the grid after damaging the floor of his Aston Martin in qualifying. He pitted for hard tyres later in the race and overtook Zhou Guanyu, Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon until catching up with team mate in seventh place.

After closing within two second of sixth-placed Stroll, Alonso said on his radio he would not attack his team mate. He told the team he would take “zero risks” over the final laps of the race and took the chequered flag less than a second behind Stroll in seventh place, his lowest finish of the season.

“It was 10 laps to the end, I had a little bit fresher tyres – but like one or two tenths faster than him, no more than that,” Alonso told media including RaceFans after the race. “I will not get crazy. I damaged one floor yesterday, I didn’t want to damage another one today, or he damages the floor or anything just try to secure the place. For us it’s the same: sixth and seventh, and seventh and sixth.

“I regret yesterday my mistake. I thought all night if I could rewind and go again in qualifying, things will be different. That I cannot do, so I can only think now in Canada and I will use that motivation for a good weekend in Canada.”

Aston Martin’s 14 points from the Barcelona weekend are their fewest of any round of the 2023 season so far, allowing Mercedes to move ahead of them into second in the constructors’ championship. Alonso admits that his team were simply not able to match the pace of their rivals around the Circuit de Catalunya.

“I think we didn’t have the pace, that was the biggest problem,” Alonso said. “It was not that we were unlucky or different strategies, or anything like that.

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“We were slow compared to Mercedes, slow on the soft, slow on the hard and we just concentrated on the Alpines, AlphaTauris and keep up the pace with the Ferraris. At the end I think we out-scored the Ferraris this weekend because they only scored with Carlos [Sainz Jnr] and we lost points with Mercedes. But they have done a better job this weekend, so let’s try next one.”

Race start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
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Alonso had to overcome robust defending from Ocon in the latter stages of the race. The Aston Martin driver passed his former team mate for seventh place on lap 52. The Alpine driver moved firmly to the right as he came under attack, and Alonso took to the pit lane exit as he claimed the position. Despite Ocon’s aggressive defending, Alonso said there was “nothing” to say about the move.

“It was different on TV, I don’t know,” he said. “From my side I overtook Zhou, Tsunoda and Esteban and for me, they felt all the same.”

Asked if Aston Martin’s performance over the weekend had been a reality check for them after their strong start to the season, Alonso said “no, I don’t think so.”

“I think in two weeks’ time we will see a completely different picture and hopefully we will fight with the Red Bulls soon,” he said.

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Will Wood
    Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
    Claire Cottingham
    Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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    24 comments on “Alonso explains why he chose not to attack Stroll for sixth place”

    1. I get Fernando’s trying to be a mentor to Lance and give him a confidence boost, but Lance knowing Fernando was doing it that way, surely he’d rather have a genuine contest and finish behind than have it handed it to him.

      I get most of feel that’s a summary of Lance’s career, but maybe it’s more damaging than helpful.

      1. Exactly the ultimate power move, letting him win a bit.

      2. It’s an oddly harmonious situation, to be sure. They both have tremendous job security; Stroll has no need to prove anything to his team owner, and Alonso has no need to prove anything to anyone.

        1. I think it makes a lot of sense. Too much sense in a sport where egos dominate so many aspects of life. For Alonso, as you correctly mentioned, he has absolutely nothing to prove to anyone. He is not interested in the ‘honors’ of finishing 6th ahead of his teammate. That’s peanuts. For the team, however, it matters a lot to secure as many points as possible and minimize risks. The WCC is the one that pays, not the WDC, and for Fernando, being 2ns would be a nice badge of honor, but I’m certain he’d rather finish 3rd if that means Aston win second in the WCC and all the prize money that comes with it.

          True team work is rare in F1 so I think that’s why so many are shocked. We saw it last year with Max unwilling to help Checo in Brasil. We’ve seen a bit of a cold war between Russell and Hamilton, not openly defiant with each other, but certainly conceding absolutely nothing and doing no favours. With Ferrari it’s actually quite good so yeah, similar. We saw today Charles let Carlos by with no problem

          1. I have to agree: Fernando seems to be showing true team spirit and acting as a genuine mentor/tutor for Lance, while still extracting the best he can out of the car. I don’t remember ever seeing a team working as well as Aston seem to be right now, and (to quote Max out of context) it’s “really lovely” to see!

        2. “tremendous job security”

          Very well put! It’s a privilege that no other pair of drivers has at the moment (maybe except for Lewis and George) and it’s a big advantage if you ask me!

      3. Not to forget it’s a team sport and the circumstances meant their was no advantage for the team to swap positions: only risk of potential damage.
        No one would have criticised Alonso for attacking but he recognised the cost of damage and assessed the risk and cost versus the any advantage to be gained.

        They were in position to fight for 5th so there was no point. 6th and 7th was the maximum result available.

        1. Not strictly true: While it may make no difference in the WCC, Alonso, their lead driver in the championship, would have gained 2 extra points. Given Perez’ recent performance, this could end up being the difference between 2nd and 3rd for Alonso. Also given the potential improvement shown by Merc, it could mean the difference between 3rd and 4th. That’s worth something to the team, if only in prestige.

    2. I am curious why Alonso has been so bad at Barcelona since his return. He lost to Ocon twice and managed to finish behind Stroll today. Okay, Alonso would’ve got Stroll in the end, but the result is still very bad.

      1. They entirely replaced his floor under parc fermé conditions, meaning he’s been unable to adjust the setup and race it as is, certainly far from ideal.

    3. Doesn’t matter, it will be great material for The Lollipop Man. “Haha, Zilly boys.”

      1. It most certainly will!

    4. I don’t care for PR explanations. He obviously agreed with the dad to join the team as mentor. Mentor to a driver that’s not even young anymore. This is so humiliating for the whole team, including both drivers, especially the son. But I didn’t have much respect for him anyway. I’m getting more and more disappointed in Alonso… This is spoiling the season for me, as AM could be the only real story this year.

    5. Samuel Reed
      5th June 2023, 2:17

      Fernando is one of, if not the greatest F1 drivers of all time. Prost-level skill, Clark’s ability to do much with relatively little and Senna’s passion for winning. Only poor rides have kept him from being all time champ. Hamilton and Schumacher not in same league skill wise or maturity level. Verstappen maybe.

    6. Alonso should have thought of his fans in the grandstands who paid to come and see their hero have a great result. “Not damage the floor” – c’mon you really think that’s an excuse, Fernando? You made a mistake in Q1, that happens. But when you had the opportunity to get the best possible result at your home track, you withheld yourself. Does handing someone a result on a platter make him look good?

      1. @pt Alonso is an incredibly intelligent driver. He simply got the most out of the situation. If it was for third place, stay sure he would have eaten Lance, but this was for almost nothing and the return in terms of PR, position within the team and to the Strolls is much bigger.

        Isn’t it true that he looks even more dominant over Lance by letting him stay in front? Without even forcing his car nor risking anything.

        1. Agreed, it’s an easy win for Alonso. It shows respect to the team that he can bring the result home, and he wasn’t going to be on the podium regardless, so a couple more points for himself was irrelevant.

          It’s also not like coming 3rd in the championship would be his best ever result, so where he eventually ends up is not that important. And obviously the team scores the same whether their cars are 6th and 7th or 7th and 6th.

    7. He is taking everything out of his final seasons. Enjoying every moment. Gotta love this man.

      1. Stroll? or Alonso?

        1. Well I don’t hate Stroll but I love Alonso more

    8. I wouldn’t be surprised after Alonso retires they would somehow copy his driving abilities and would inject them to stroll so he can finally become champion.

    9. Neil (@neilosjames)
      5th June 2023, 9:51

      I was a little surprised when I heard the radio, but thinking about it and reading this, it makes perfect sense. Finishing P6 wouldn’t be a huge motivation for Alonso unless he was depriving a competitor of points, so it’s not like he was even giving up anything that mattered… and he does seem a little more ‘teamy’ this year than I’ve ever seen him.

      Maybe it would have been different had Lance been occupying P3 (or P1) at the time.

    10. Even though we all know what he was doing and why (the Strolls too), he explains it away with some charm and elegance. Aston Martin need to get a move on, though, with their car development if they’re not going to waste Alonso being there.

    11. This is probably the first time I ever agree with anything Alonso has said and done on the track, or to his team mate, and I am quite surprised that fans are so opinionated about this. How is this even controversial in any way? The “Great and Almighty” Alonso only came in behind his team mate, when he had fresher tyres and could’ve easily overtaken him. Who cares….

      Driving anywhere withing a 3m radius of Babby-Stroll’s’s car dramatically increases a driver’s chance of receiving damage to his car. Alonso knows and has felt this; and we the viewers, know and have seen it. The entire paddock knows this. Alonso wisely kept himself out of the danger zone and saved his car, and engine, to fight another day. Maybe even Canada, now that’s a good result!

      Also, Alonso being Babby’s “mentor” is the most comical thing I’ve read in F1 reporting since Kimi’s “motivation speculation”. The world knows and understands that Babby is slow and dangerous on the track, the only reason he’s sitting in his toy car cruising on Sundays is because Papa-Stroll bought it for him.
      Alonso being the evil, manipulative, psychological-game playing mastermind that he is, is simply showing the world how much he has found Babby wanting. Not only is Alonso faster on the track, and could have effortlessly overtaken Babby if he so wanted, he’s also able to give Babby instructions over the radio on how to take corners and in what sequence to press the big bright buttons on his steering wheel.
      It’s almost like Alonso is driving Babby’s car for him! Now that’s the Alonso we all know, love/hate, and have come to expect throughout his career.

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