Fernando Alonso offers fresh explanation for Red Bull performance decline

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen parked on the grid at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023. tyre blanket.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen parked on the grid at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Fernando Alonso believes both Red Bull and his Aston Martin team have been stung by the newly-introduced Pirelli tyre constructions.

With performance gains in F1 2023 exceeding the calculations given to Pirelli, Formula 1’s tyre manufacturer felt the need to respond to safety concerns over their original compounds for the season.

Pirelli therefore introduced a new construction at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, ones better equipped to handle the greater-than-expected strain being placed on the tyres by this season’s challengers.

Fernando Alonso claims new tyres pegged Red Bull and Aston Martin back

But, while the tyre compounds in the Pirelli range did not change, Alonso cannot help but notice some shifting in the pecking order from Silverstone which he feels is more than just a coincidence.

Alonso and his Aston Martin team started out in F1 2023 as the nearest challengers to the dominant Red Bull team, but after five podium finishes in the opening six rounds, Alonso has finished in the top three only once since, crossing the line P7 at Silverstone.

Red Bull meanwhile appear to be slipping back towards the chasing pack, McLaren’s Lando Norris having passed Max Verstappen at the British GP start and led the opening five laps before Verstappen re-passed and drove on to victory, his sixth in a row, thus maintaining Red Bull’s unbeaten record in F1 2023.

But, as Red Bull introduced upgrades in Hungary, the expected two-tenth or more pace boost did not arrive, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton instead pipping Verstappen to pole.

And Alonso, having seen signs of Aston Martin and Red Bull slipping back, while McLaren and Mercedes surge forward, thinks there is more to it than solely the movements in the development race, instead suspecting these new tyres are also playing a role.

Speaking to media after qualifying P8 for the Hungarian GP, Alonso said: “We are one tenth from McLaren, so it’s not as bad as maybe the result looks. But yeah, we need to improve, there’s no doubt we made a step backwards in the last few races, and everyone did a step forward.

“Also it is a coincidence that when the new Pirelli tyres came in Silverstone there are a couple of teams that were struggling more, and a couple of teams that are very happy with the car now.

“It’s not only us, I think Red Bull has clearly been hit with those tyres, they’ve been one-two in every qualifying, one-two in every race, and now they are not even on pole position.

“Checo [Perez] is struggling to be in the top 10. At Silverstone I think Max [Verstappen] was only three seconds in front of Lando [Norris in the race]. So I see things a little bit abnormal since Silverstone.

“I think you can feel the car a little bit different with the tyres. But as I said it is difficult to sometimes to be neutral.

“Obviously, we didn’t improve the car much compared to the main competitors. We have every Thursday now the new parts for every team. So it’s very easy now to see which teams are bringing more and more parts to the grand prix.

“But if I look back to Red Bull after being first and second, in every practice, qualifying and race and now I think this weekend in none of the practice, in Silverstone he [Verstappen] was only three seconds in front of Lando. I think Red Bull lost performance since Silverstone, that’s a fact.”

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Fernando Alonso critical of new qualifying format trial

The drivers have been forced to get to grips with an altered tyre allocation for the Hungarian GP race weekend, with their usual 13 sets of slick tyres reduced to 11, while in qualifying, they had to use the hard tyres in Q1, mediums in Q2 and softs in Q3, rather than having a free choice on compounds.

The likes of Hamilton, Verstappen and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen have already criticised the initiative, and now Alonso can be added to the list, the Spaniard believing it is a poor deal for the fans who see less of the cars on track, with drivers forced to conserve their pool of tyres.

“I think it was a disaster to see cars not running in free practice because we are saving tyres,” Alonso is quoted by RacingNews365.com.

“It didn’t add anything to the show and I feel sad for the spectators that paid for their tickets for Friday – FP1, FP2 and FP3 – and cars don’t have the tyres to run.”

Alonso will join Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas on the fourth row of the Hungarian GP grid, Alfa Romeo another team to have enjoyed a surge of performance, following on from McLaren going from midfield runners to pole and podium contenders since.

Read next: Winners and losers from the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying