Alonso vows to put “more pressure on Verstappen” in Austria after fuel worries in Canada

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Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

It was another result typical of the on form Fernando Alonso this season behind the wheel of the AMR23 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, though not one where he just had to worry about attempting to catch a runaway Max Verstappen ahead of him, as he faced challenges from both Mercedes at times during the Grand Prix.

After inheriting P2 on the grid following Hulkenberg’s grid penalty, he had to start the race with a fired up Lewis Hamilton behind him in P3, much more comfortable in the W14 now it has had a substantial upgrade package. Hamilton managed to slip past the Spaniard off the line and the 41-year-old had some work to do to regain his second place, pushing hard in the opening few laps and at one point even giving the wall quite a clout with his rear right wheel at the exit of turn 5.

He was also under threat from George Russell in 4th before the Brit hit the wall himself and pitted with damage.

Alonso managed to pass Hamilton on Lap 22 and remained in second until the chequered flag despite a potential fuel system issue and the best efforts of the seven-time world champion behind him on the medium compound tyre. The Aston Martin driver hailed it as “an amazing battle”.

In the post-race trackside interviews, when asked about the orders from his race engineer Chris Cronin to lift and coast in the latter stages of the Grand Prix, he had the following to say:

“I don’t really know. They didn’t tell me so maybe it was not to make me worry too much. But I don’t know. I felt the car was OK. But I was just following the instructions. So yeah, hopefully that means that we have a little bit more pace. So next one, putting more pressure on Max.”

Given he was nursing a problem with the car and not able to push to the maximum, Alonso was asked how satisfying it was to just have a 9-second deficit to Verstappen at the finish, the shortest gap between first and second place this season (excluding Australia’s circumstances):

“Very, very. I think it has been a tough race from the beginning, you know, when we lost a place at the start I thought that maybe that was already gone, P2, and I would have to concentrate on the guys behind, George and the Ferraris maybe. But then, yeah, we were able to overtake Lewis and we had a little bit more pace in that part of the race. And I was quite OK, until the last 20 or 25 laps, that Lewis was coming very fast and I had to push again to the limit. So yeah, all in all, it was 70 laps of qualifying. So there was no time to rest. And I loved it.”

Having lost a place to Hamilton off the line, the double world champion even found his reactions coming under scrutiny but was certainly quick enough to disabuse the gathered press of any problems there:

“My reactions are still very good! No, I don’t think… I need to check, I don’t know if the guys starting on that side of the grid, they started good or not. Because I only sure Max and Lewis, obviously, but George didn’t overtake me, so maybe it was just the wrong side of the grid. Yeah, I cannot answer now.”

During the race, people were questioning why Alonso had pitted for the hard tyre for the final stint while the chasing Hamilton moved onto the mediums just as Verstappen had, but as he explained, no other option was available:

“We didn’t have another Medium. So that is something that you need to decide before Qualifying, the tyre allocation for Qualifying and the race, sometimes you decide to go for one Medium, one Hard because you think it’s enough; sometimes two Hard, sometimes two Mediums. And obviously with the very limited practice that we did on Friday, it was just a guess. I’m happy with the decision: for us the Hard was not a bad tyre at all and we were able to extend the stints, and on our car, it was a good tyre.”

Another encouraging weekend for Aston Martin then, if not Lance Stroll, but though we can’t say for certain how much pace in hand Verstappen’s RB19 still has over the AMR23, it looks like the team in green will also have to worry more about Mercedes going forward than they have in the earlier part of the season.

Photo credit: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team