Fernando Alonso strategy error stopped Red Bull being ‘on the ropes’ in Monaco

Henry Valantine
Fernando Alonso congratulates Red Bull driver Max Verstappen. Monaco May 2023.

Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen embrace after the conclusion of the race. Monaco May 2023.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner acknowledged that Fernando Alonso could well have been in the fight for victory around Monaco, had his first pit stop been for intermediate tyres.

Mid-race rain saw the track partially doused with water around Mirabeau and Portier, with the drivers creeping around that portion of the circuit while the remainder stayed dry.

But Alonso, who was racing on hard tyres from the start with Verstappen struggling on mediums, opted to pit for slick tyres, which ultimately cost him as the conditions worsened to a degree where he was forced to come back into the garage just one lap later for intermediates, with the Red Bull driver only pitting once and extending his lead at the front of the race as a result.

With Alonso having been closing in on Verstappen at that point in the race, Red Bull team boss Horner felt that if the Aston Martin driver had gone onto intermediates first time around, the fight for victory on Sunday could have been a much closer one.

“Well, of course, it’s about the engineer working with the driver and trying to get the crossover and it felt like maybe we’d gone a lap too long before going on to the inter and I think had Fernando picked the inter, it would have been much tighter and put more pressure on our pit stop,” Horner admitted to Sky Sports F1 after the race.

“But thankfully he took the slick tyre just as the rain was growing and so at that point, it’s like ‘Max, don’t take any risk, just get it to the pits.’

“When you’re the lead car, you can only lose, you’ve got nothing to gain and you’ve just got to try and work with the conditions.

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“We’ve got spotters out there, we’re trying to look at the radar, you’re stuck in an office effectively – you can’t look up at what the weather’s doing.

“You’re looking at the crowd, are they putting their umbrellas up? That kind of thing and, you know, just trying to piece it together and of course the driver has the best knowledge of what’s going on, on the circuit.”

Alonso had earmarked the Monaco weekend as potentially his best chance of the season to beat Red Bull, and Horner agreed that the team were possibly beatable heading into the race, given the fine margins in play around Monte Carlo.

The Red Bull team principal admitted that he thought another team would be their main threat rather than the Aston Martin driver this time around, however.

“I think we were on the ropes here,” Horner said.

“We knew coming into this weekend this was going to be our biggest challenge in the first half of the year, and the low-speed nature playing to the strengths [of others].

“We actually thought Ferrari might be the main opponent, but Fernando has just been on fire all weekend. I mean, unbelievable.”