‘I thought the podium was gone’ – Alonso on his thrilling final-lap battle with Perez
Fernando Alonso returned to the podium for the first time since Zandvoort in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, claiming P3 in a frantic drag race to the line with Sergio Perez – with Lance Stroll adding to Aston Martin’s joy with a strong drive to P5.
Alonso spent much of the latter half of the Interlagos race resisting pressure from Perez in the all-conquering Red Bull RB19. But when the Mexican slipped past for third place at Turn 1 on Lap 70 of 71, it looked as though Alonso’s brave defence wasn’t to be rewarded with a podium.
But on the final tour, Alonso eschewed a challenge into Turn 1 on Perez, focusing instead on a DRS-assisted move down to Turn 4. That pass pulled off, he then managed to out-drag Perez to the line, claiming P3 by just 0.053s from the Mexican.
“For me it was like 30 laps that I had the pressure from Checo [Perez],” said Alonso, who started the Grand Prix in P4. “But when he passed me two laps to the end, I thought, 'Okay, this is gone, the podium is not possible anymore.' But he braked a little bit late into [Turn] 1, and I said, 'Okay, I go for it into [Turn] 4.’
“This is a phenomenal result for the team,” added Alonso, who retired from the previous two events in Austin and Mexico City. “We've been struggling for a couple of months already, especially the last two events with two retirements. So this podium is for them, for everybody in the factory. We keep fighting until the last lap.”
Aston Martin had been experimenting with upgrades in recent races as they seek a direction for their 2024 machine. But with the team having reverted back to the pre-upgraded car, Alonso was encouraged by the pace that he’d re-found in the AMR23 after its strong start to 2023.
“Obviously we're still learning about the car,” said Alonso. “These cars are so complex aerodynamically, so we've been experimenting a little bit to find the direction for next year. We thought about forgetting this year, but we're still competing, so happy... and now to Vegas!”
Stroll had started ahead of Alonso in P3, but lost places early on with a start that sent him down to P6. But the Canadian was nonetheless encouraged by claiming a strong fifth place after showing impressive pace at times.
“We had a really quick car today and back to where we were at the beginning of the year,” said Stroll. “A bad start – I didn’t get off the line well, but after that, the car felt good, good pace, so I think it was a really strong weekend.”