The star from Saturday also played a leading role on Sunday. But not in the way Fernando Alonso had imagined. The second on the grid slipped down to 9th place. Everything had conspired against the Spaniard. Finally there was a penalty.
The sun only shone for 22 laps for Fernando Alonso. That's how long the oldest driver in the field could dream of a podium, if it ever was a dream. Alonso had not expected more than fifth place before the start. Which he corrected to third or fourth during the race. But with the second on the grid too much went wrong in the 70 laps.
It started when his team missed the two VSC phases on laps 9 and 19 without a pit stop. In both cases, this would have reduced the time lost when changing tires by nine seconds. Alpine didn't accept the first gift "because we assumed it would be a one-stop race and didn't want to stop twice," said team boss Otmar Szafnauer. If you wanted to get over the distance with a tire change, you had to last at least until lap 25.
The second VSC was unlucky. "When the VSC sign was shown, I was on the home stretch. And when I wanted to stop a lap later, it was just gone again." So the veteran had to stroke his tires until lap 28 to live up to the original plan.
Esteban Ocon showed what the unfortunate timing cost Alonso. The Frenchman was clearly behind his team-mate in the early stages, was allowed to pit on lap 19 at VSC pace and finished sixth ahead of Alonso.
Engine problem costs three tenths a lap
The moment Alonso lost third place to Lewis Hamilton, he realized that he could finally write off a podium. Its engine lost power. A leak in the pneumatic system made the remaining 50 laps a nail-biter. Despite the problem costing around three tenths a lap, Alonso was still able to catch up with the Ocon and Leclerc duo in front of him after his tire change. He just lacked the speed to overtake.
In the final stages, when the two Alfa Romeos appeared behind Ocon and Alonso, the Spaniard needed the help of his teammate. Ocon took his foot off the gas to donate to the second Alpine DRS. Only that protected Alonso from his pursuers.
"If Esteban had accelerated, he would have pulled away from the others by ten seconds," calculated Szafnauer. That's why the team didn't react to Alonso's request to switch places at the end, because he was the much faster driver all weekend. "It would still have been fifth and sixth for us. Only with the risk that both Alfas would overtake us."
Five seconds penalty for Alonso
The big end came after crossing the finish line.Alonso was summoned to the stewards following a complaint from Alfa Romeo. On the penultimate lap, he defended himself unfairly against Valtteri Bottas on the long straight between the hairpin and the finish chicane. The Alpine with starting number 14 changed lanes a total of four times.
Alonso cleverly defended himself in front of the referees, arguing that he had changed lanes once, which apparently forced Bottas to slow down. All other wavy lines would have had no meaning for the outcome of the race. Bottas was no longer near him.
After studying the video recordings, the sports commissioners could not get used to the portrayal of the Alpine pilot. They handed the qualifying star a five-second penalty. Just like they got Lance Stroll at the Australian GP when he did the same thing with Bottas. "The penalty is not justified," Szafnauer supported his driver.
As a result, Alonso lost two positions to Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou. For the second time after Miami, a subsequent penalty cost the ex-world champion points. Alpine only got ten instead of 14 points. Less than the French camp had hoped for given the excellent grid positions. Alonso was annoyed: "We deserved more today than ninth place."