Fernando Alonso returned to the podium with P3 in Qatar – a performance ex-Formula 1 driver David Coulthard termed “reassuring”.
Two-time former World Champion Alonso had been away from the top three in Formula 1 since 2014, his last podium arriving at the Hungarian Grand Prix that year.
And after returning to the series for 2021 with Alpine, the hopes of a podium finish this season had started to dim for Alonso, but Formula 1’s first visit to Qatar’s Losail International Circuit proved to be where that doubt ended.
Promoted to P3 on the grid due to penalties for Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas, Alonso ran as high as P2 at one stage and, aided by a puncture for Valtteri Bottas later in the race, was able to stretch out his final stint to nurse his tyres across the line to claim P3.
There was a hint of deja vu to it, with Alonso’s team-mate Esteban Ocon costing Red Bull’s Sergio Perez precious seconds as the Mexican overtook in his pursuit of Alonso.
Perez just ran out of time though, with Ocon saying he had returned the favour from Alonso back in Hungary where he had held off Lewis Hamilton for several laps, allowing Ocon to drive to his first Formula 1 victory.
Alonso hopes to add a third world title to his CV and Coulthard believes that in Qatar, Alonso proved the “speed” and “hunger” for such success was still there.
“This is good for Formula 1, reassuring that Fernando still has the speed, still has the hunger,” he told Channel 4.
It was also an important result for Alpine themselves, whom Coulthard believes found a “purple patch” for their car around the series of flowing corners at the Losail Circuit.
With two rounds remaining of the season they sit P5 in the Constructors’ Championship, now with a 25-point buffer over AlphaTauri.
“The car had come into a sort of purple patch of form here [in Qatar]. I’m sure they hadn’t changed anything in terms of significant parts, it’s just the particular style of that car suits this more flowing circuit,” Coulthard explained.
“So that will take a bit of pressure off the team, although not quite as much as getting that victory with Ocon back in Budapest, so it’s been a topsy-turvy season for them.”