George Russell ‘expected nothing less’ as ‘smart’ Fernando Alonso plays DRS ‘game’ in Japan

Jamie Woodhouse
Fernando Alonso speaking with George Russell at the 2023 pre-season photo call in Bahrain.

Fernando Alonso speaking with George Russell.

George Russell once again encountered some Fernando Alonso shenanigans during the Japanese Grand Prix – thankfully this time without an unsavoury outcome – as the Mercedes driver said fair play to the Spaniard over his DRS ploy.

Aston Martin racer Alonso was running P6 in the closing stages of the Japanese Grand Prix, though faced a challenge to hold on to it with the McLaren of Oscar Piastri and Russell’s Mercedes in close pursuit. Alonso, though, was more than up to the task.

‘Fernando Alonso playing games? That’s new’

The battle would instead boil down to Piastri versus Russell, as it became clear that Alonso was keeping Piastri within his DRS range in order to protect himself from Russell.

It was at the previous round in Melbourne where Russell had crashed out while chasing Alonso, the Spaniard receiving a drive-through penalty (converted to 20 seconds added to his race time) plus three points on his FIA Super Licence having been deemed guilty of “potentially dangerous” driving by the stewards due to abnormal lifting and braking.

This time there were no such dramas, with Alonso’s latest tactical masterplan earning Russell’s praise. Russell would ultimately overtake Piastri on the final lap to snatch P7. recommends

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Asked by Sky F1 if he was aware of the DRS games being played by Alonso, Russell laughed and replied: “Of course.

“Fernando playing games? That’s new!

“It was smart from Fernando and I expected nothing less, that’s part of racing.”

Alonso was extremely satisfied with his work at Suzuka, ranking that performance as potentially one of the top-five race weekends of his career.

“I think it was one of my best races, or my best weekends,” he told Sky F1.

“I think it was very complete and very strong, very solid from free practice to the race, maybe the best of the last year or maybe even top five of my career.

“But it’s going to be completely anonymous. Everyone will forget by tomorrow this weekend that we had.

“But I felt connected with the car. I think P5 yesterday that is completely out of position and P6 today is completely out of position.

“We are definitely slower than Red Bull and Ferrari – they are in another league at the moment – but I think McLaren and Mercedes are faster than us.

“Mercedes did experiment a little bit with the car, the starting tyre today and a little bit [of a] bold strategy, but thanks to that we capitalised and gained that position.

“And Oscar, maybe he was not having the top speed to really attack me. But I think P6 is completely unrealistic. So I’m very happy.”

Piastri leaves Suzuka the highest-ranked of the trio in the Drivers’ Championship, sitting P6 and on 32 points, with Alonso and Russell both six points adrift on 24.

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