Lambasted by their Alpine boss for letting the team down in Sao Paulo, Fernando Alonso believes that’s not fair as Saturday’s sprint race was the first time he and Esteban Ocon crashed.
Alonso and Ocon earned the ire of Otmar Szafnauer as their sprint race battle at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix ended with neither driver scoring a single point.
They twice made contact with both cars suffering damage, Alonso coming off worse as he had to pit for a new front wing while also being slapped with a five-second penalty for causing a collision.
They finished P16 and 17 with Ocon ahead, back of the grid starting spots for Sunday’s grand prix.
Telling The Race that he was “extremely disappointed” in his drivers, Szafnauer added: “Frankly, both Esteban and Fernando must do a better job to compliment the fantastic efforts of everyone in the team by avoiding on-track incidents and compromising the entire team’s performance.
But Alonso, having previously voiced his dissatisfaction with Alpine’s reliability and how it had hurt his championship, wasn’t happy with the narrative.
Pointing out that while the team-mates have engaged in several wheel-to-wheel tussles, Saturday’s sprint was the first that resulted in contact.
“In two years we met once, that was Saturday,” he said as per Motorsport.com.
“We were accused a lot, but I think we always try to help Alpine when we jump in the car, as you could see in the grand prix.
“It has been clean for two years. In some early rounds we had fights, because we always qualify and start close to each other. We only made contact once.
“People want to make a big thing of that, but we only interacted once and on Sunday we fixed everything. We try to do our best for the team.”
‘A really good race for us’ declares Alonso
Alonso raced his way from 17th on the grid to fifth at the chequered flag in Sunday’s grand prix by using a three-stop strategy.
That meant he found himself behind the two-stopping Ocon after the final Safety Car restart, the Frenchman first passing Sebastian Vettel before opening the door for Alonso to fly through.
The Spaniard scored 10 points on the day, Ocon brought in four with his P8.
As such Alpine extended their advantage over McLaren, who recorded a double retirement, to 19 points with just one race remaining.
“It was a really good race for us,” Alonso said. “Of course we opted for a strategy with three pit stops.
“We were out of sync with the other cars, and the late Safety Car shook the field again.
“I had newer tyres and was able to have some fun at the end, overtaking Checo [Perez] and fighting Charles [Leclerc]. And with both McLarens out of the race, there are a lot of points for Alpine.”
Szafnauer hails Sunday’s team work
With 14 points on the day, Alpine just need a clean race in Abu Dhabi to ensure they finish best of the rest ahead of McLaren.
Although the Enstone team has also lost points through reliability issues, too many in Alonso’s mind, they have generally had the faster car.
Szafnauer says Sunday’s result shows how a bit of team work can bolster the team’s chances of scoring.
“It just goes to show that if you do play the team game everybody’s better off including them,” he said. “They did what’s really expected of professional racing car drivers.
“They were on different strategies, they understood that as we discussed it beforehand.
“Fernando being on the three stops so he was on fresher tyres at the end and Esteban let him by after he wanted to attack Sebastian, and it worked out really well.
“You crash into each other and nobody scores.”