“So this is the end of our race?” Alonso’s luckless Australian GP RaceFans

Fernando Alonso was the last driver to take the checkered flag at the end of the Australian Grand Prix.

But a little over 24 hours earlier this Alpine driver looked on course to pull off a major upset. Following a problem with his car in qualifying, he endured a luckless Sunday, as his radio messages relate.

Alonso set the timing screen alight with his first run in Q3, until he reached turn 11. There is a hydraulic problem caused a failed downshift, pitching him wide and into a barrier.

The only upside was the lack of significant damage the gearbox meant Alonso’s car could be repaired without penalty. But a potential starting position on the first two rows turned into 10th on the grid.

With the soft tires proving too fragile for a race stint and the mediums preferred by most drivers, Alonso was among the minority of drivers who opted to start the race on hard tires. This promised to pay off if the race ran for a long time without a Safety Car period.

Qualifying misfortune left Alonso 10th on the grid

There was a brief interruption soon after the race started, when Carlos Sainz Jnr retired. He also started on the hard tires, alongside Alonso, but got away poorly and soon spun into a gravel trap.

Alonso held 10th at this early stage. Further behind him last-placed Lance Stroll used the advantage of having no cars in his mirrors to get his mandatory tire change out of the way. He pitted for medium compound tires, did a lap, then had hard tires fitted again, all behind the Safety Car.

But that wasn’t an option for Alonso, who was urged by race engineer Karel Loos to concentrate on keeping his tire temperatures up behind the Safety Car ahead of the restart:

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Lap Speaker Message
1 Los You’ve got yellow turn 10 at the moment.
1 Los Gap 0.7 behind.
2 Los Careful with lift and shift between 13 and 14 please.
2 Alonso Okay.
2 Los Virtual Safety Car, Virtual Safety Car. Your pit window is closed.
2 Los So we’ve got a Virtual Safety Car for Sainz who’s stuck in the gravel exit of turn 10. Currently, you’re still P10. Let’s get straight onto keeping temperature in these tires.
2 Los Okay full Safety Car, Safety car, staying out, staying out.
3 Los So only car stopped, Stroll gone hard to medium. Can we have b-bal 12, b-bal 12.
3 Los Did you manage to get an initial feel for balance?
3 Alonso Not so much. Very low-grip. Still (unclear) I think.
3 Los Yeah, copy.
3 Los Go B-bal 11, please, B-bal 11.
4 Los So just an update on a situation behind so Stroll boxing again, going back to the hard tire.
4 Los B-bal nine, B-bal nine.
4 Los Let’s try to keep doing all we can to keep temperature in these tires.
4 Los Okay so Safety Car is in this lap. Suggest to do more weaving, more weaving.
5 Los So for the restart just a few reminders. Reset your brake balance, which you’re just doing now – it will be recharge off for the restart.
5 Los And no overtaking until the control line.

After the restart the race began to come to Alonso. Gradually those who started on the medium compound gave them up for hards, including those ahead, some of which reappeared behind him.

Having followed Pierre Gasly since the start of the race, Alonso sniffed fresh air for the first time after the AlphaTauri driver pitted. He reeled off consecutive laps of 1’14.7, 1’14.6 and 1’14.6 as he finally tapped into the pace of the surprisingly rapid Alpine.

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8 Los Okay so DRS enabled.
8 Los Currently 0.9 behind Gasly, Tsunoda 0.8 behind you.
9 Los Target plus two.
10 Los Okay there might be some gravel around the exit of turn 11.
10 Los Tire update and update on status please.
11 Alonso Struggling a bit. Status zero. I try to overtake.
11 Los Copy that. People on the mediums also struggling with tires at the moment.
12 Los Okay mate just a reminder we’re on plan A so need to be smart about this point at the moment.
13 Los Just a reminder, try to do what we can about slip exit of turn 11.
13 Los So just try the bottom-right for turn six.
13 Alonso Copy.
15th Alonso They are too slow now, they are too slow now.
15th Los Copy that. Just for info car behind 2.5 is Bottas.
15th Alonso Locking up. I’ll be out of DRS just this lap.
15th Los Copy that mate. Try to stay patient.
16 Los So everyone boxing.
17 Los Okay overtake available. Verstappen close at pit exit.
18 Los Nice job mate. Suggest high-speed eight when you can, high-speed eight.
18 Alonso Very understeering.
19 Los Okay understood.
19 Los Fail bravo two zero off. Fail bravo two zero off.
19 Alonso Zero off?
19 Los Two zero off, correct.
20 Los Suggest trying shape one, shape one.
21 Los Okay and behind Gasly just boxed.
21 Los Exit 10 exit 10.
22 Los Behind you Bottas boxed. Car behind you is Hamilton now, just stopped for hard tires.
22 Los Also behind Bottas has now stopped for hard tires as well. Only one car left on the medium, which is Russell.

But it didn’t last. On lap 23 Sebastian Vettel spun into the barriers at turn four, bringing out the Safety Car.

With more than half the race still to run, Alonso knew his strategy was fatally compromised, as attempting to finish the remaining 35 laps on a set of the medium rubber was not realistic.

22 Los Okay Safety Car, Safety Car, staying out, staying out.
22 Alonso Are you sure, mate? We can do… I don’t know.
22 Los Negative, staying out.
22 Alonso Okay, so this is the end of our race, I guess.
23 Alonso Still a long way to go, mate. There might be more opportunities.

At the restart Alonso was in fourth place, but the Safety Car had brought his pursuer back within range, and he was swiftly demoted by the likes of Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton on their medium tires.

23 Los Can we have PU 13 position eight and watch out for debris where you are.
23 Alonso 13 position eight?
23 Los Affirm, 13 position eight.
23 Los So for the next stop just for info we’re taking out plus four turns total from the front wing.
23 Alonso Okay. Yeah, but I will be overtaken now, it’s going to be a mess.
23 Los We’ve got margin for some brake warming.
23 Alonso It’s going to be a long one so you want to start now?
23 Los Copy that, keep doing some weaving if you can.
24 Los Can we have B-bal nine please.
24 Los So correction can we go B-bal 12, please, B-bal 12.
25 Los Safety Car in this lap. Let’s work these tires as much as we can then reset your brake balance. It will be recharge off for the restart.
25 Los So recharge off.
27 Los So Perez 0.4 behind.
28 Los DRS enabled.
28 Alonso Yeah. It will be impossible to hold it back
28 Los Copy that mate.

Alonso clung to sixth for several laps while the McLaren drivers picked their way past Kevin Magnussen behind him.

He had just fallen into the clutches of the McLarens when Max Verstappen retired, triggering another Virtual Safety Car period. Alpine were just able to get him in for a pit stop during the brief delay, but he resumed out of the points in the 13th.

28 Los Russell 0.4.
30 Los The car behind you now is Magnussen. He’s got same age tire as you.
32 Los You are three-tenths quicker than Magnussen behind. Magnussen behind fighting with Norris and Ricciardo.
33 Los So car behind now is Norris, 2.6 behind.
35 Los To Norris, 2.3, he did a 23.9.
35 Los Time to gain compared to Norris is 12 and 13.
36 Los How are the tires?
36 Alonso Front-left gone.
36 Los Okay, so when you can go exit 11, exit 11, and high-speed five.
36 Los Norris now 1.1 behind.
36 Los Overtake available.
38 Los Safety Car window is open. Virtual Safety Car, Virtual Safety Car. So stick to your delta. And you’re happy with four turns on front wing?
38 Alonso I guess so.
38 Alonso Check if Norris overtook me at turn one under yellow.
38 Los Yep will do. We are boxing this lap.
38 Alonso Okay box.
38 Los You will come out in traffic so push at pit exit.
38 Los Pit exit, can overtake until Safety Car Line Two.
38 Los Okay.
38 Los VSC ending, VSC ending.
Alonso felt Gasly took too long to pass Stroll

Alonso’s misfortune had left him behind, among others, Stroll, who now had Gasly in his mirrors. Alonso was mystified by the amount of time it was taking the AlphaTauri driver to clear the Aston Martin.

40 Los 17 laps to go at the end of this lap.
41 Los This train of cars is held up by Stroll in P9.
44 Los Alonso passes Schumacher
Nice one mate.
44 Los So for further info Stroll ahead has a five second penalty.
47 Alonso Who is in the AlphaTauri?
47 Los Gasly.
47 Alonso [Unclear] why he don’t overtake.
48 Los Schumacher 0.4 behind.
49 Alonso [Unclear]
49 Los Gasly has got past Stroll.

Now one of only two drivers on mediums, Alonso found his degraded quickly in the queue of traffic. Magnussen, the other driver on the same compound, appeared in his mirrors as Alonso was passed by Zhou Guanyu and sunk to 13th.

At this point he pitted for another set of mediums, seemingly in an effort to entertain himself with a bid for the fastest lap. Though by this point he was clearly doomed to finish outside the top 10 and therefore could not score the bonus point.

49 Alonso The front left completely gone.
49 Los Copy.
49 Los Mid one available, mid one.
50 Los Zhou 0.4 behind.
50 Los Car ahead of you now is Stroll.
50 Los So reminder Stroll has a five second penalty and ahead Albon still needs to stop.
51 Los So Magnussen 0.3 behind.
51 Alonso Yeah the front left [unclear] think what to do.
51 Los Copy that.
52 Los Okay mate we’re going to box this lap for another set of mediums.
52 Alonso Copy.
52 Los So box this lap.
52 Los Clear on pit exit. Perez about five seconds behind.
53 Los Three laps remaining after this one.
53 Los Perez at the moment doing 21.9.
53 Los Solid blue for Perez behind.
53 Los Got Russell and Hamilton still coming up behind.
53 Los Solid blue for Russell. It’s back to flashing blue.
55 Los Currently the fastest lap is 20.9.
55 Los Solid blue for Russell behind.
55 Los And next car behind is Hamilton, currently flashing blue for him.
55 Los There’s a 21 second gap behind Hamilton. Solid blue now for Hamilton.
55 Los SOC two available SOC two.

On his final lap Alonso produced a 1’20.846 which stood as the second-fastest lap of the day. Race winner Charles Leclerc had kept enough in hand for a late flyer which ensured he did not lose the bonus point.

But for Alonso, a weekend which promised so much yielded nothing. Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine came home in the position Alonso’s strategist predicted he would have taken had it not been for an ill-timed Safety Car.

56 Los Okay and scenario 12 please, scenario 12.
57 Los Sorry mate a tough one. Leclerc improved his lap to 20.3 at the end.
57 Alonso What was our race without a safety car? P7?
57 Los Er… yes.
End Los Okay so finishing order Leclerc, Perez, Russell, then Hamilton, Norris, Ricciardo. Esteban finished P7 in front of Bottas, Gasly and Albon.
End Alonso Okay.

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