“Follow Fernando’s line” – How Red Bull tried everything to get Perez past Alonso

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Fernando Alonso spent 44 laps soaking up pressure from Sergio Perez in the Brazilian Grand Prix until the Red Bull driver slipped by on the penultimate lap.

But Alonso regained third place on the final lap, then out-dragged his rival to the finishing line to claim the final podium place by just five hundredths of a second. The closeness of the pair at the finish neatly mirrored how closely aligned their approaches were to the final third of the race.

Red Bull pitted Perez for the final time on lap 46, and Aston Martin called in Alonso a lap later. Alonso finished his out-lap 3.3s ahead of Perez, with 23 laps to go of the 71-lap race.

Although they were both on soft compound tyres, Alonso was on a new set while Perez was on used rubber. Alonso’s later stop onto fresher tyres should have been an obvious advantage, but according to Red Bull’s information the two drivers were on “same age tyres” and Perez could afford to bide his time.

Lap: 47/71 PER: 1’33.339, ALO: 1’19.763
BirdFernando is boxing.
BirdBattery’s full.
Lap: 48/71 PER: 1’15.224, ALO: 1’33.326
BirdAnd Fernando’s a 3.9, same age tyres.CroninSo Perez is doing the same thing. He’s pushing hard in 11. I think what we did last time was good. So managing in 11 will help you at the end.
Lap: 49/71 PER: 1’14.977, ALO: 1’15.582
BirdSo, Fernando at 3.1.Cronin22 laps to go. Perez is 2.6 back.
BirdHe’s managing more in turn 11. Just reel him in slowly.
Lap: 50/71 PER: 1’15.340, ALO: 1’15.783
Bird15.5 for Fernando.
BirdSo reel him in, nice and slowly.
BirdStrat three.
Lap: 51/71 PER: 1’14.778, ALO: 1’15.390
CroninPerez, 1.6. He’s definitely pushing his tyres a lot harder than you.
Lap: 52/71 PER: 1’14.749, ALO: 1’15.345
Bird15.3 for Fernando. Gap, 1.6.AlonsoOkay, copy. Yeah, keep me informed of the gap.
Bird0.9s.CroninCopy, mate, copy.
CroninPerez 1.2.
CroninPerez, 1.0.
CroninPerez does not have DRS but he is 1.0 behind.
Lap: 53/71 PER: 1’14.759, ALO: 1’14.796
Bird1.0sCroninPerez is 1.0.
Bird52 laps complete, 19 remaining.CroninPerez does not have DRS but he’s 0.9s behind now. 18 laps to go.
Lap: 54/71 PER: 1’14.477, ALO: 1’14.442
Bird0.9s, just missed DRS.CroninPerez has got DRS this time. He’s 0.9s back, 0.8s back.
BirdJust missed DRS, 1.04.CroninPerez 0.9s, 0.91s.
CroninPerez is still one second back with no DRS.
Lap: 55/71 PER: 1’14.124, ALO: 1’14.695
BirdThe battery’s full.CroninSo he has got DRS this time, 0.8s. 1.1s, you’re good.
Bird0.5s.CroninSo Perez 0.7s, a little bit closer.
CroninPerez 0.5s. You’ve got loads of energy.
CroninPerez 0.6s with DRS.

The end of lap 55 was the first time they crossed the timing line less than one second apart, and they remained that close (or closer) for all of the remaining laps. However Perez did not have access to DRS on every one of those laps as he was not within a second of Alonso at the DRS detection point.

He was still benefiting from his slipstream to draw close going onto the pit straight. But Perez told his team the Aston Martin was strong there:

Lap: 56/71 PER: 1’14.956, ALO: 1’14.765
BirdStrat eight, 0.7s.CroninYou can energy again if you need. He 0.5s, 0.4s.
CroninPerez 0.6s again.
CroninPerez 0.8s, so he’ll have DRS. You’ve got loads of energy. Perez still 0.8s.
Lap: 57/71 PER: 1’14.686, ALO: 1’14.694
BirdWe’ve got more energy now.CroninPerez 0.5s now with DRS.
BirdStrat 10. Even more energy.CroninOkay, 0.8s this time. He’ll have DRS.
Lap: 58/71 PER: 1’14.360, ALO: 1’14.523
Bird0.5s.CroninPerez 0.5s.
CroninPerez, 0.6s. A little bit closer this time, be ready with your energy.
Lap: 59/71 PER: 1’14.543, ALO: 1’14.677
PerezFuck, he’s very fast on the straights.CroninAnd he’s 0.7s back.
BirdUse your energy early.CroninPerez 0.5s this time, use energy again. 0.6s.
Bird0.4s, use your energy.
Lap: 60/71 PER: 1’15.126, ALO: 1’14.999
BirdMode 10.CroninAnd you’re okay to use energy again. You can use energy again.
Bird0.6s.CroninOkay, 0.6s again to Perez.
Lap: 61/71 PER: 1’15.048, ALO: 1’14.912
Bird0.6s.CroninPerez 0.5s.
PerezHe’s really fast on the main straight.CroninPerez 0.7, 0.8 this time.
Lap: 62/71 PER: 1’14.771, ALO: 1’14.674
Bird10 laps to go.CroninPerez 0.5s.
BirdMode nine when you can.CroninPerez 0.8. There’s nine more laps to go at the end of this one.
Lap: 63/71 PER: 1’14.638, ALO: 1’14.652
Bird0.7s.CroninPerez 0.6s.
CroninPerez 0.8s again.

Red Bull tried everything they could to maximise Perez’s chance of passing. Alonso was varying his lines through the crucial Bico de Pato and Juncao corners (turns 10 and 12) which lead to the flat-out climb to the first corner and the best overtaking opportunity on the track.

Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Interlagos, 2023
Perez briefly got ahead – but canny Alonso hit back
At one point Perez’s race engineer urged him to follow the Aston Martin driver more closely. However Perez felt doing that meant he spent too much time in the turbulent air from Alonso’s car and his handling was suffering as a result.

After the race, Alonso confirmed that had been his approach. “I thought that I had things under control in the last stint, until maybe five laps to the end, where I started pushing a little bit more,” he explained. “I had more juice in the tyres and I thought everything was fine. And Checo was playing the same game.

“When you run just in front of another car, you have better downforce, you have clean air and that was maybe good for maintenance of tyre management. He was struggling a little bit to go into turns 10, 11 and 12 behind another car.

“That was probably the game that we were playing. Those three corners were crucial for the overtaking opportunity. And when you are the car in front, you have better grip, always.”

“In the lines, we were just changing lines sometimes,” Alonso added. “I didn’t want to be always on the same line, if possible, like this. If he goes on the inside, I was from time to time on the inside from time to time on the outside.

“So it was not a clear direction for him to really change the racing line and take the opportunity for some clean air. So I was just trying to get some turbulence to his front nose.”

Lap: 64/71 PER: 1’14.349, ALO: 1’14.517
BirdTry a bit wider at the apex turn 12 to promote traction. Get that exit.CroninOkay, Perez 0.7s.
BirdFollow Fernando’s line, turn 10, turn 12.
Lap: 65/71 PER: 1’14.757, ALO: 1’14.601
PerezSo if I just follow his line I think I’m really in the dirty air.CroninPerez 0.8s. Six laps to go at the end of this one.
BirdOkay we’ll focus on the exit of 12. Give up a bit on the entry, focus on the exit.
Lap: 66/71 PER: 1’14.440, ALO: 1’14.556
Bird0.6sCroninPerez 0.7s, five more laps.
Lap: 67/71 PER: 1’14.712, ALO: 1’14.526
BirdFive laps to go.CroninPerez 0.9s. Four more laps to go.

How the two drivers managed their energy levels to optimise their opportunities to attack and defend were also vital. “I was using the energy also in the straights just to make sure that there was no opportunity for Checo,” Alonso added.

But by the final laps both were told they could take the maximum available power from their engines. As they approached Juncao for the final time, Bird told Perez to keep his finger on the button all the way from the exit to the finishing line – and he gave him a reminder after he left the last significant corner as well. It wasn’t enough, however.

Lap: 68/71 PER: 1’14.699, ALO: 1’14.943
BirdFour laps.Cronin0.6s, so use your energy I think. It’s 0.7s. Three more laps to go. Hulkenberg ahead will get out the way with blues when we get there.
Bird0.4s, battery’s good. Press and hold.
Lap: 69/71 PER: 1’14.768, ALO: 1’15.011
BirdMode 10, mode 10.CroninOkay he’s 0.5, use your energy. Two more laps at the end of this one. Two.
Bird0.4s, battery’s good. Press and hold.
Lap: 70/71 PER: 1’15.652, ALO: 1’16.364
BirdBattery’s good.CroninYou can use energy again. You’ve got loads of energy.
Bird0.4s.CroninYou will get DRS, go to strat five.
Bird0.8s, battery is good.
Lap: 71/71 PER: 1’15.939, ALO: 1’15.448
BirdLast lap.CroninOkay mate, push and hold, push and hold. You’ve got loads of energy. Hold it down.
BirdGood, 0.3s.
BirdPress and hold to the line.
BirdPress and hold.

Only one team was going to be happy when the chequered flag fell. Red Bull consoled Perez, who was frustrated by the time he’d lost having to pass Lewis Hamilton for a second time following his first pit stop earlier in the race.

Perez’s better finishing position in the sprint race meant he actually out-scored Alonso over the weekend. That meant the Aston Martin driver can no longer beat him to the championship runner-up spot.

But Alonso’s podium finish, snatched by a tiny margin, was his eighth of the season. That means he and his rival in the world championship-winning RB19 go into the final two rounds of the season tied on the same number of rostrum appearances.

HornerCheco, that was a big drive. Unfortunately you just missed out there, mate.CroninYes mate, we did it. Yes. That is a hell of a – go to cool and run switch, cool. Nice and slow on the way in, loads of pick-up. Unbelievable.
PerezI. Yeah.AlonsoCopy guys. This is for you guys. This is for you. Good on you, all of you guys, all the factory, everyone. Everyone, this is for you. Thank you very much.
PerezYeah.CroninWell done mate, I’m well impressed. So nice and slow on the way in, loads of pick-up.
PerezI don’t know what to say. We shouldn’t have followed Lewis there on the first stint. But anyway, good points.AlonsoSorry for the target lap.
BirdRecharge on and fail 84.Cronin‘Well done mate. So take the last bit of the pick-up and see you at the podium.
BirdHe just pipped you. One hell of a fight.AlonsoYeah, when you do the podium, everyone can celebrate. Thank you very much.
BirdOkay. Finishing order Max, Norris, Fernando, yourself, Stroll, Sainz, Gasly, Hamilton, Tsunoda, Ocon. So good points.CroninAnd you saw Lance is P5, loads of points, all good.
BirdOkay into the pit lane.AlonsoYes, yes! Come on guys, I’m happy for you.
HornerThat was a strong drive, Checo. So, so unlucky on that last lap. But you gave it everything. And good points versus… you know, for the P2.
PerezYeah, exactly. Well done, well done mate.

2023 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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33 comments on ““Follow Fernando’s line” – How Red Bull tried everything to get Perez past Alonso”

  1. On the channel 4 commentary they suggested Perez was so vulnerable after he finally got by because he had probably emptied the battery. I wonder if some of the advice he got was a bit unhelpful in this regard. It sounds like it was a great battle – they only showed about 3 laps of it in the highlights… Bring back freetoair coverage, please!

  2. if you look on F1tempo, lap 57 for example, you can see it was between T2 and T3 that was the big thing Fernando was doing, gaining time on full power and energy so he came onto the back straight out of range. Gained .59 on that lap, and the next. I don’t think Checo ever worked it out, or even his RE, tho we could see it on TV

    1. Thank you, that’s a great site.

      1. it is isn’t it. And then, if you add in Max’s lap, his throttle is much like Fernando’s than Checo’s

        1. that site confirms something i’ve been afraid of.

          Redbull is not using the engine as alpha tauri is. Much higher rpm’s for alpha’s, so they really ARE sandbagging.

          (check TSU’s fastest lap & compare with CHE of VER’s fastest lap..)

          So next year its When needed a bit more power, tuning up the engine a bit more & let them close up until we need more..

          1. The car was after all able to win all races but singapore, and it did, so there’s no diminishing its dominance, no matter how much some people try to make us believe it’s less dominant than the mercs.

          2. Comparing Tsunoda’s lap 64 with Verstappen’s lap 68 I can’t see any significant difference.

            Through turn 4 Verstappen has higher RPMs because he’s actually going faster, then through turns 6 and 7 Tsunoda’s RPMs are higher because he goes 1 and even 2 gears lower than Verstappen (downshifts quickly from 7th to 5th, whereas Verstappen stays on 7th for longer, then on 6th until turn 8 where he goes all the way to 3rd).

            On the exit of turn 9 Verstappen upshifts into 4th earlier than Tsunoda due to a higher exit speed.

            Finally, for turn 12 Tsunoda starts downshifting earlier and goes down to 3rd while Verstappen stays on 4th.

            The RPM differences between the 2 seem to be accounted by a difference in speed or being in different gears. When the speed and gear matches, RPM seems to be within a very small margin. So I can’t really see any sandbagging from that.

          3. @casjo FTW

            …but, yeah, Max could probably have finished 45 seconds of Lando if he had wanted.

          4. 45 seconds ahead*

  3. This makes me wonder if the hybrid system promotes on track racing or rather restrains it. It seems to me that drivers now are forced to be passive for extended periods of time just to charge their batteries, then race for a bit, and then repeat the cycle.
    Am I wrong here?

    1. it’d be interesting if we could see it, how the attacking car tries to get out of phase, having the victim use up his then pouncing. The live timing is so primitive atm, that’s be the place to have it. Same with tyre temperatures. We all have at least two screens to watch with, it’s an opportunity

      1. This makes me wonder if the hybrid system promotes on track racing or rather restrains it.

        Both – but the real problem is that the teams tell the drivers when and how to use it. If it were left solely to the drivers, it’d be a lot more organic and interesting.

        The live timing is so primitive atm

        Understandable that you’d say that, but at the same time I’d argue the opposite.
        The less you get told, the more there is to experience for yourself. A bit of surprise in sport never did any harm – but taking that element of surprise away certainly does.

        We all have at least two screens to watch with

        Do we..?

    2. Depends on how one defines ‘extended’. The current regulations specify that the cars have a 4 MJ battery (or rather, it’s a 4 MJ delta but the number is the important part). It can recharge 2 MJ per lap from the MGU-K, and an unlimited amount from the MGU-H. As you note, it’s clear from the way drivers sometimes have to charge their batteries that this is not a system that can power the 150 kW motor continuously for maximum deployment at all times.

      In 2026, the 4 MJ battery will have to power a 350 kW motor, and as this is a much more powerful motor, and the MGU-H will also be scrapped, the MGU-K will then be allowed to charge the battery by up to 9 MJ per lap (so over two full charges). And to prevent the new motor from depleting the battery too fast, the output has been capped linear to the speed of the car; although the specific formula means it is only relevant above 300 km/h. From 340 km/h and up, it’ll be limited to the same 150 kW as today.

      It’s hard to say how this will really work, because while one can do the calculations, the new moving aerodynamics should get the cars to top speeds faster and it’s hard to say for sure how much deployment there will be with the 2026 cars. I guess we’ll see.

  4. I hate that detailed level of driver coaching. I remember it was banned a few years ago, or at least it was talked about

    1. Driving alone and unaided will never again be a reality in F1, having died out with the introduction of radio and live data telemetry. It’s just a bunch of words in the sporting regs to be deliberately ignored and forgotten about.

      The 2016 ban you speak of wasn’t really a ban on coaching – it was merely a ban on using specific words and phrases. So naturally the teams simply adopted thinly-veiled codes to say exactly the same things to the drivers, while making everyone look utterly silly in the process.
      They did it so poorly that it was rescinded almost immediately and F1 returned to its usual open-slather – under the excuse that it was too hard to police.

      That sounds exactly like F1, doesn’t it.

    2. Oh, yes, was indeed banned, I remember some occasion in 2016 where rosberg risked to retire due to some gearbox problem and the engineer gave him some not-allowed instructions to fix the problem, he didn’t retired but got some time penalty.

      1. That was an example of it being stupidly restrictive and resulted in a huge backlash that saw it get tossed out. I’d prefer the engineers not be able to tell which corners they can take directly for speed. Stuff like lift and coast and tire management is fine, telling them they need to pull out of hot air, even braking bias is fine. To simplify it the most, just no info on where their teammate is faster and suggestions on different lines being the only restriction.

    3. didn’t retire*

    4. I don’t mind, it’s a team sport. Driver still needs to execute

    5. As I was reading the article, I was wondering if there was still a rule in the rule book saying “drivers must drive the car alone and unaided”. In the debte about sprint races, drivers say they don’t need more than one practice session, but maybe they should be spending that time learning alternate lines through corners etc so that they don’t need in-race coaching.

    6. @uneedafinn2win
      very much agreed

  5. Lewisham Milton
    9th November 2023, 10:09

    Should have used Mode 11!

  6. Perez overdefended on the last lap coming into turn 1. He didn’t really need to go on the middle of the track and get so compromised into the Senna esses, which was made even worse by his battery depletion from the lap before. Just a lack of skill ultimately and caving under a bit of pressure.

    1. @gechichan It’s funny, isn’t it? If Alonso had done that on any of the preceding laps, Checo would have passed him into turn 4 and the battle would have been over. But Checo panicked a bit and thought the only way he could be passed was a divebomb into turn 1, so he played it too safe and gave Alonso the run into turn 4 instead.

  7. Coventry Climax
    9th November 2023, 10:28

    Where Max usually manages to go by in a first, unexpected move, Perez is fiddling about lap after lap, trying the exact same thing over and over again. And remember the car is basically the same, as Perez himself has admitted to.
    Apparently, he needs to be told by his RE about what to do to get by.
    That’s not my definition of a racing driver.

    Would be interesting to compare some overtake situation pitwall conversations between Verstappen and Perez.
    I doubt Verstappen needs much coaching in similar situations.

    Let me paraphrase one annoying poster (don’t care to remember his/her name) that we haven’t heard of much lately; “Perez out!”

    1. Alonso, Hamilton and Verstappen have really shown the difference between champions and aspiring champions. Their speed, consistency (speed and lack of mistakes) and race management have all been superior. For Lewis (38) + Fernando (42), this is also in spite of their age.

      It’s why all three were the most consistent scorers of the season. At the summer break, Max, Lewis and Fernando were the only drivers who had scored in every race. Fernando was the only driver going into Austin to reach Q3 in every quali before that awful upgrade ended it. As we see with Lewis, he can reach the highs more regularly and with more margin for error. And Max was doing absolutely everything right and winning almost everything.

      We’re lucky to have all three on the grid at the same time. And with a good cast of aspirants hungry to prove themselves. It’s a shame all three can be in similarly matched cars and we have this generation of land ships too.

    2. This reminds me a lot of Suzuka 2013. Grosjean got the lead and Vettel and Webber followed.

      Webber had a better strategy actually, and had faster tyres on the last stint, so he could attack Vettel.

      But both had to pass Grosjean first, if they wanted to win.

      Vettel took a lap and a half, something like that. Webber took at least 5, can’t remember now, and by the time he was done, so were his tyres.

      And Vettel won, obviously.

    3. Where Max usually manages to go by in a first, unexpected move

      Yet, I do not consider that his most impressive skill. Drivers have basically stopped to defend against (clearly) faster cars in the DRS era. If there is nothing left to loose, or something to gain for a team mate or if they do not need to compromise their lap time in defense, they may put up a fight, but in most cases there is hardly even a token defense.

      Yes, he is forceful and bullish and confident, but there is hardly any resistance at all. It is actually a bit of a prisoner dilemma. It would be better for the group if everyone resisted fiercely, but for each individual there is a lot to gain by not defending, especially when all the others are.

      1. Coventry Climax
        10th November 2023, 0:20

        Yet, I do not consider that his most impressive skill.

        That’s OK, as an opinion, and as long as you’re aware I never said any such thing.

        Even if your observation is true, for a large part, there are still times where there is resistance. And even then, Verstappen usually gets the job done very quickly, where Perez generally struggles.
        You may perceive that as ‘forceful and bullish’, I perceive it as cunning and decisive. On the ‘confident’ we can agree. Where Perez’ attempts frequently end in tears, Verstappen generally just gets by.

        1. You whispered it softly in my ear last night. Yes-oh-yes, you said it.

      2. Drivers have basically stopped to defend against (clearly) faster cars in the DRS era. If there is nothing left to loose, or something to gain for a team mate or if they do not need to compromise their lap time in defense, they may put up a fight, but in most cases there is hardly even a token defense.

        You just described Lando Norris. The most irritating driver of the grid.
        See Max in the rear mirror, moves out of the way. Then see Hamilton or Alonso, prepares to die fighting if necessary.

        So annoying.

  8. They also said: “Maybe drive a bit like Alonso, or any other half-decent driver… you complete waste of an F1 seat.”

    1. This made me laugh so hard I wheezed.

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