Fernando Alonso ‘smart’ after avoiding ‘humiliating’ Lance Stroll in Spanish GP

Thomas Maher
Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, June 2023.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, June 2023.

Fernando Alonso has been praised for a “smart” decision not to challenge Lance Stroll for sixth place in the closing stages in Spain.

Alonso was content to settle for seventh position and to finish behind Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll at the end of the Spanish Grand Prix, despite having had the opportunity to elevate himself past the Canadian.

Alonso started the race from ninth place after a compromised qualifying due to floor damage from going off-track in Q1, before recovering somewhat during the race as Aston Martin failed to show the pace they’ve had for most of the season.

Stroll, by comparison, started the race from fifth after a great qualifying session, and ran as high as third in the Grand Prix before the Mercedes’ superior race pace began to show itself.

In the closing stages, a resurgent Alonso caught up on the back of his teammate, but radioed in to tell his team to inform Stroll that he would not challenge for the position, despite being armed with fresher tyres and enjoying a significant pace advantage.

Aston Martin ‘at a loss’ about lack of pace

Reflecting on Aston Martin’s somewhat anonymous weekend on the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast, broadcaster and former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley hypothesised about why the team may have struggled.

“It was slightly disappointing, only because we know that that car has potential,” he said.

“I think even listening to Fernando talk after the race, he was a little bit surprised. Yes, he started further down the grid than he would have liked to have done and that does put you in all sorts of complicated problems with other cars around you.

“But even he said they just didn’t have the pace and it was a bit of a loss to understand why the car seemingly had lost performance. These were slightly weird conditions this weekend, temperatures cooler than people expected them to have a huge impact on your tyre performance, getting the tyres in the right temperature window, how you work your tyres and manage them.

“That can have a massive impact on the car’s performance and it does affect different cars in different ways. It may well be that these conditions, whether it’d be temperature and humidity or circuit-specific, really just tipped the Mercedes into the window. It may have tipped the Aston Martins just out of that window and the difference between in and out can be a second a lap.”

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Fernando Alonso could have ‘humiliated’ Lance Stroll

BBC journalist Andrew Benson, appearing alongside Priestley on the podcast, said Alonso had played a smart political game by opting to sit behind Stroll rather than attacking for an inconsequential position change.

“Alonso came out from his final pitstop 10th, and he overtook [Yuki] Tsunoda, [Guanyu] Zhou, and [Esteban] Ocon,” he said.

“He was closing on Stroll, and if Stroll was in any other car, he would have gone past him to finish sixth.

“But he knows what side his bread is buttered! He came onto the radio and said ‘Just tell Lance there’s no threat, no risk. I’m not going to try and overtake him’.

“Smart guy. A sixth place, seventh place, Fernando Alonso couldn’t care less. He doesn’t need to overtake Lance Stroll to prove he is quicker than Lance Stroll this season.

“It would disrupt team harmony, it would have humiliated Stroll and Lawrence Stroll, the team owner, wouldn’t have been happy either. Much better just to bank the seventh place and move on to Canada and normal business will be resumed presumably…”

Fernando Alonso explains his decision

Speaking to BBC after the race, Alonso explained the logic behind his decision to sit behind Stroll rather than overtake.

“I think I was a little bit faster, like one or two tenths as I had newer tyres with 10 laps to go. But yeah, when you get close to another car you have some trouble and, after damaging one floor [on Saturday] already, I didn’t want to damage another one.

“And I didn’t want him to damage his floor either by defending. Sixth and seventh or seventh and sixth, for us it was the same points. So just bringing the car home felt the right choice.”