Fernando Alonso gave one of the best soundbites during the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix, at one point complaining about the strategy telling his team they threw him to the lions by stopping early.
The double Formula 1 Champion started the race from tenth on the grid on Soft tyres in order to make up some places on the start, and indeed he was sixth by the end of Lap 1 wen the Safety Car came out to clear up the car parts that were all over the track after the first-lap mess.
But with the highly abrasive surface of the Suzuka track, that meant an early pitstop for Alonso (Lap 11) after which he had to make his tyres survive for a long stint and he was eaten up by cars.
Alonso has always been positive since he started driving for Aston Martin, as he racked up seven podium finishes with them in 2023, but at Suzuka he gave us a hint of the old Fernando.
He said: “You’ve thrown me to the lions by stopping that early mate, unbelievable.”
However, after the race, Alonso played down those comments insisting they were taken out of context, he told Motorsport.com: “I think it’s the same classic theme, the classic FOM radio, completely out of context.
“I’m not sure exactly what other drivers say when they are behind a car that is slower and on the straight, they are pulling away even when you open the DRS.
“Maybe they say, ‘I’m okay, I’m happy to stay here and to stay behind’,” he quipped. “But I prefer to be motivated, to overtake them. On track, as I said, I was slower even with the DRS open.
“So I called for a different strategy, we stopped, we beat them. So that’s the way we do it. We beat everyone on track, even if the radio is the highlight,” he maintained.
Alonso insisted eighth was the best result possible for Aston Martin in Japan, as the team continued to struggle to keep up with their rivals development pace, despite starting the season as second best behind Red Bull.
Aston Martin were better in the race
“I think we were fast today, faster than what we thought, in terms of pace,” he pointed out. “I was behind the Ferraris, in front of [Lewis] Hamilton with not too much pressure. I think in lap 12 we stopped. And I think it was to cover [Yuki] Tsunoda, which was a bit of a surprise there.
“After that stop, obviously, the race is very long from that moment onwards,” the Spaniard added. “Maybe that was a mistake. But easy to say now. I think arguably the final result would be P8, after the top teams. So it didn’t change much in our race.
“I was upset because the first stop I think it was too early. I didn’t argue. I knew that we stopped too early. And it’s not a problem. Sometimes we benefit,” he reckoned.
As to whether he is questioning the team strategy more, he said: “Sure. I think we had two hard tyres, and the Ferraris they had only one.
“We tried to anticipate the first stint, the first stop, you have to force them as well to go early. So I understand the strategy. So there is nothing wrong with it.
“But when you have a very slow car on the straights and you are into traffic, it can be that there are moments of rage that you lose momentum. It happened today, but I’m perfectly fine,” Alonso concluded.
Alonso is now fourth in the 2023 F1 Drivers’ Championship, 33 points down on Lewis Hamilton in third. Aston Martin are also fourth in the Constructors’ Standings, 74 points down on Ferrari in third.