After a nightmare Sprint on Saturday in Sao Paulo, Fernando Alonso redeemed himself in Sunday’s Grand Prix, with a sterling surge through the field from 17th on the grid to finish P5.
Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer would term the Sprint “a low point in our season”, as Alonso and team mate Esteban Ocon nearly came to blows on the first lap at Turn 4, before Alonso made contact with the sister A522 on the start-finish straight – for which he’d receive a five-second race time penalty. Ocon would start Sunday’s Grand Prix 16th and Alonso 17th.
Let past his team mate after the final Safety Car restart, Alonso went on to take fifth, while Ocon finished eighth in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
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“Yeah, it was a good race,” said Alonso on Sunday. “Obviously, we had the pace in the car, so we tried to have some free air. We chose a three-stop strategy. We were out of sync with most of the cars, but in the end the last Safety Car shuffled the race a little bit. I had newer tyres, so I could have some fun and some battle with Checo [Perez] and Charles [Leclerc].
“Both McLarens out – so that obviously is the perfect Sunday for the team. A lot of points, so we take those onboard and hopefully in Abu Dhabi we have a calmer weekend.”
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Alonso did however call his five-second penalty – for making contact with team mate Ocon in the Sprint after a fraught intra-team battle – “extremely harsh”.
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He said: “Yeah, I mean, we know that we both made mistakes. He over-defended in Turn 4; I misjudged the distance in the straight. I didn’t want to touch anyone at 300kph, but okay, it was my mistake.
“I think the penalty is extremely harsh,” he said, reasoning that Ocon had no considerable damage from the contact. “This exact accident happened in Portimao with [Kimi] Raikkonen and [Antonio] Giovinazzi and no penalty. So, my penalty I think [made] no sense. But we take it, it was our mistake, and hopefully we don’t do it again.”
2022 Sao Paulo GP Sprint: Alonso picks up damage after fighting on track with Alpine team mate Ocon
The two-time champion readies for his final race for Alpine this weekend in Abu Dhabi, before he departs for Aston Martin. And Alpine boss Szafnauer was suitably pleased with his drivers’ recoveries on Sunday in Brazil.
“If yesterday was a low point in our season, today is certainly up there as a high. Congratulations to the entire team – both factories at Viry and Enstone – everyone trackside, and the drivers for a fantastic Sunday effort where we’ve scored 14 points and, importantly, extended our lead in fourth place in the constructors’ championship,” said the team boss.
“The championship is not over yet until the chequered flag drops in Abu Dhabi. We will remain focused, do our normal preparation next weekend, and give it our best to have both cars finish the season as strongly as possible. We’re nearly home…”