There were shades of Gilles Villeneuve in how Fernando Alonso refused to throw in the towel during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, despite suffering two punctures and damage as a result of a first lap melee.
Alonso defied physics as he drove the stricken McLaren back to the pits – as the late great Villeneuve did on more than one occasion – got his mechanics to bolt on fresh tyres and powered out back into the race and claimed seventh place for his team at the end of an incident-packed race in Baku.
The Spaniard told reporters after the race, “Very crazy. Another seventh place but I think it was the result of persistence and pride because I think no one would have reached the pitlane, first of all. They would have parked the car and if they could reach the pitlane they would have retired the car.”
“But we didn’t park or retire the car and fought for every tenth, every lap, close to the walls all race long and, I think it was the best race of my life. I reached the pitlane thanks to a miracle. I didn’t have two wheels or front wing or floor or anything.”
“They changed the tyres and they told me the car was heavily damaged so I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish or that I would be very slow. But I started overtaking cars and then with the safety car I gained some positions in the end.”
Alonso admitted that he too thought his race was over as he made his way back to the pits in the wrecked car, “They told me significant damage and when they say that it’s usually bad news because if it’s little they’d say you only have a damaged wing, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
“When they said significant damage I feared the worst,” revealed Alonso who along with teammate Stoffel Vandoorne in ninth the pair completed another double-points finish for McLaren.