‘The gap was large’: Alpine boss on Alonso-Ocon battle in Canada

Fernando Alonso fell from second to ninth in Canada amid an afternoon of misfortune for the Spaniard.

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has affirmed that their overall performance in Canada was indicative of a team that is capable of winning races this season.

Fernando Alonso earned his first front row start since 2012 in Montreal when he qualified second behind polesitter Max Verstappen, and he held off Carlos Sainz for a few laps before the Ferrari got past.

In the end, the 40-year-old suffered from engine issues that put him behind the Mercedes of Sir Lewis Hamilton, while a Virtual and a full Safety Car cost him positions to George Russell and team-mate Esteban Ocon, who had started seventh.

READ: Bernie Ecclestone fires warning about Leclerc and Ferrari

To make matters worse for the Spaniard, he was given a time penalty for weaving excessively on the straight to defend from the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas, sending him down to ninth.

The double world champion’s display came after he was cruelly denied pole by an oil seal failure in Melbourne, before a Safety Car in the race arguably denied him a chance to get onto the podium.

A win is certainly not unforeseeable for the team vying to be best of the midfield runners this year; Ocon took victory in Budapest in 2021 for the French side, and Szafnauer is optimistic that his team can snatch another one.

“Yeah, for sure if we get the rub of the green, a win and a podium as possible,” he said.

“But I think looking at trying to overtake the third placed team with the amount of races that are left and the points that are available, will be difficult. 

Article continues below

“But every once in a while, a podium and a win? Yeah, that could be possible.”

Alonso leads Ocon 5-4 in the qualifying battle this year, while the 25-year-old, in part due to some fortune, leads 6-3 in race trim.

READ: ‘But it’s not Barcelona’: Wolff on Mercedes’ performance expectations for Silverstone

In Montreal, Ocon’s long middle stint enabled him to capitalise on a late Safety Car caused by Yuki Tsunoda to clear Alonso but, particularly after his team-mate tremendous qualifying display, the Frenchman had some catching up to do in order to finish ahead of Alonso.

“[The gap] was large at the end, but not every lap, so Esteban was making inroads, he was getting closer and closer,” said Szafnauer of Sunday’s race.

“But you have to remember, in changeable conditions, Fernando is on it very quickly. 

“And you know, he gets up to speed much quicker than most drivers do, I think he’s always had it. 

“He’s always been on it very quickly, and experience helps too.”

Ocon and Alonso sit ninth and 10th respectively in the Drivers’ Standings after nine rounds, with the Frenchman 21 points in front.