Fernando Alonso admitted after finishing third at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday that getting past Lewis Hamilton on the first lap was more “important” than his final lap move on Sergio Perez for P3.
Alonso didn’t get the best launch off the line and was overtaken by both Lando Norris and Hamilton on the opening lap, although he did get past Lance Stroll.
The race was then red-flagged following damage to a tyre barrier at the first corner, after Alex Albon was involved in a collision with both Haas drivers.
When the race got back underway, Alonso pulled off a crucial move on Hamilton at Turn 4, which promoted him into third.
Hamilton’s race pace was shocking but he proved to be a challenge to get past for other drivers, which allowed Alonso to create a big gap to those behind.
This meant the two-time World Champion was able to extend his opening stint, which reduced the threat of Perez.
Perez did eventually catch Alonso in the closing laps and make a move on the penultimate lap; however, the Aston Martin driver managed to get back ahead on the final lap and claim third by a staggering 0.053s.
As incredible as his last lap overtake was, he admitted afterwards that the move on Hamilton was more vital.
“Obviously the last lap, overtaking him [Perez], it was quite a lot of commitment because we were both all or nothing in a few corners,” Alonso said, as reported by Motorsport Week. “But I think to be honest, the most important overtaking of the race has been Hamilton into Turn 4 on lap one. That changed my race.
“If I start P4 and I have to fight with Hamilton in the first stint even if I can eventually get him from lap 10 or whatever, my tyres will never be in a condition to extend the first stint and then have a tyre advantage to Checo in the second stint and third stint, so for me there is one crucial moment of my race and it’s lap one, into Turn 4 with Hamilton.”
Alonso’s battle with Perez was arguably the highlight of what was a lacklustre Brazilian GP, with the two drivers having left each other with just enough room.
The Spaniard was able to do just enough to keep ahead of Perez for the bulk of the closing laps thanks to getting a fantastic exit out of the penultimate corner, something he labelled as “crucial”.
“Yeah, it was a very intense race. And there was no time to relax,” Alonso admitted.
“Very strategic race as well – saving the tyres, saving the battery always, in case you need it on a DRS opportunity for Checo.
“I think when you run just in front of another car, you have better downforce, you have clean air and that was maybe good for maintenance of tyre management.
And he was struggling a little bit to go into Turns 10, 11 and 12 behind another car. And that was probably the game that we were playing. Those three corners were crucial for the overtaking opportunity. And yeah, when you are the car in front, you have better grip, always.”