Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has disclosed the agonising reason for Fernando Alonso’s crash during qualifying that ultimately might have denied him pole position.
Alonso had gone quicker than polesitter Charles Leclerc in both of the opening two sectors of the lap before his engine cut out, sending off the track and into the barrier, terminating what had looked an almost certain pole lap after going purple in the middle sector.
He indicated after the session that a hydraulic issue might have been the cause but, in any case, the Spaniard found himself in an offset strategy starting on the Hards.
The double world champion then stopped onto the Mediums but became embroiled in a feisty midfield fight, forcing him to pit again onto a set of Softs towards the end.
Subsequently, the Spaniard finished the race P17 while, out front, Max Verstappen had retired from the race.
Alonso looked set to be the beneficiary of a Safety Car that would have put him in a legitimate P4 at the time had he pitted, but the timing of the caution meant that he could not, leaving him high and dry on old Hards.
The double world champion laments that he would have been heavily involved in the podium conversation without his woes on Saturday.
“[I’m] speechless to be honest,” he said.
“It’s hard to accept that everything is going in the wrong way at the moment.
“The podium today would have been easy with Max out. With George on the podium, I think we were a lot faster than the Mercedes on this circuit. So we lost an opportunity.”
The heartache only gets worse for the French team as a fully functioning o-ring – worth £1.50 – could have seen him take pole on Saturday.
Szafnauer divulges that the censors recognised a substantial drop in oil pressure, thus cutting the engine.
“We have a failsafe mode that tried to save the engine, so when you see a drop in oil pressure, the failsafe mode kicks in and that’s what happened,” he explained.
“So the fix was an o-ring change. Had we qualified where we could’ve qualified, it would’ve been a totally different race for Fernando,” Szafnauer added.
“He would’ve started on the mediums like everyone else around him, wouldn’t have been caught out by the safety car, would’ve had a good chance to fight with the top four guys.”
Alonso’s team-mate Esteban Ocon did manage to bring home points for the third time this season in seventh, but Alpine have now slipped behind McLaren to fifth in the Constructors’ Championship.