Fernando Alonso had two reasons to celebrate in Hungary on Sunday – his 37th birthday was one, the other was another four points for McLaren...
It was a typically feisty drive to eighth place from the Spaniard, who started 11th on the grid, but what really helped was McLaren’s decision to put Alonso – and team mate Stoffel Vandoorne - on a long first stint at the start of the race.
“It was a happy day, especially for the strategy,” said Alonso, after McLaren's call helped vault him into the points.
“I think the pit wall did an amazing job today, extending the first stint and that put us in a perfect position.
“Again we struggled on Saturday, even if it was mixed conditions, but on Sunday we delivered the result and more points for the team.”
It was, however, a bittersweet afternoon for McLaren, who had looked set to take their first double points finish since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix back in April.
Vandoorne, 15th on the grid, made an excellent start to gain two places on the opening lap and then managed his tyres well to sit ninth behind Alonso just over midway through the race.
“It’s disappointing to finish like that, but I think as a team we did everything right today,” said Vandoorne. “We got ourselves as high as we could and it’s a shame not to finish the first part of the season with a few more points.”
McLaren head into the summer break with Alonso sitting ninth in the drivers’ table on 44 points, seven places and 36 points ahead of Vandoorne. The team, meanwhile, are seventh in the constructors’ standings.
August won’t be all vacation for Alonso, though, who has World Endurance Championship commitments at Silverstone later in the month.
“I still now have two weeks completely off,” stressed Alonso. “You never know what I will do in two weeks!”