Fernando Alonso revealed that anger from a disappointing qualifying session had propelled his late surge at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
The Spanish veteran rolled back the years with a typically feisty showing as the Portimao contest drew to a close, fighting his way up to eighth position.
It was the 39-year-old’s best result since his comeback to F1 after two years away with the Alpine team, who enjoyed comfortably their most competitive weekend of the season so far.
Alonso finished just one second behind his team-mate Esteban Ocon, who had started sixth on the grid but also performed creditably to finish P7.
“It was good, it was fun,” Alonso, who had started 13th, told Sky F1. “We were fighting with one McLaren, one Ferrari, things that were unthinkable at Imola and Bahrain. So I think we made a very big step forward in terms of the car’s performance.
“All through free practice we were competitive. It remains a bit of a mystery what happened yesterday. I could not feel the grip in qualifying. I was not comfortable and that probably compromised a little bit my race, but I will try to get better next Saturday in qualifying.”
#PortugueseGP Debrief ⬇️
“It was the first race weekend where I felt comfortable and could push the car hard. Well done to everyone in the team, I think the progression we’ve made is very good.” – @alo_oficial
— Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) May 2, 2021
Asked by Sky F1 pundit Nico Rosberg if the old gladiatorial Alonso had returned, the two-time former World Champion said: “A little bit, I agree on that.
“I think in Bahrain I was more careful on everything just to complete the first grand prix. At Imola I was so uncomfortable in the car with the [wet] conditions. I didn’t feel good on the intermediate tyres, the visibility, the qualifying was bad, so I think this was really the first race that I was extracting the maximum from the car.
“I was upset after yesterday’s qualifying, so today that anger was probably on track as well.”
From being in the lower part of the midfield in the first two races, comparable to the likes of Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo, Alonso was understandably happy to be keeping the company in Portugal of teams higher up in the early Constructors’ World Championship standings.
“I wish this is the real pace,” he said. “At Imola and Bahrain we were in a different group of cars in the fight. Here we were with the McLarens, Ferraris and AlphaTauris, so we would love to keep doing like this.
“At Barcelona and Monaco [the next two races], Saturdays are very important because you cannot overtake, so I still have some homework to do.”