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Did Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin ruin a Monegasque victory?

MONACO – Looking back, Fernando Alonso had a chance of claiming his 33rd Formula 1 victory at the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday. If Aston Martin had fitted intermediate wet tires to his car on lap 54 instead of medium compound slicks, and then had a clean lap with Max Verstappen in the pits on lap 55 (as he did in reality), Alonso would have emerged in the lead with 23 laps to go.

Arguably, given the changing track conditions, it’s impossible to say what would have happened from lap 54. But when you add up the time Verstappen lost staying until the end of lap 55 on slicks, and how much Alonso must have gained by switching to the intermediates on lap 54, it’s also a fair guess that the Aston Martin driver would have taken the lead.

In reality, Aston Martin realized their mistake in tire choice a lap later, called Alonso back into the pits on lap 55 and he was still in second place but 22 seconds behind Verstappen – a gap that didn’t matter. only grow over the remaining rounds.

What do the times tell us?

When Alonso stopped on lap 54, his gap to Verstappen in the lead was less than nine seconds. Alonso’s lap on lap 54 was 20 seconds quicker than Verstappen’s on lap 55, suggesting he would have made up more than the nine seconds he needed if Aston Martin had fitted intermediate tires on lap 54 and not didn’t need to make a second stand. stop at lap 55.

Esteban Ocon, who finished third, provides a useful comparison as he switched to intermediates on lap 54 and thus took a 15 second lead from Red Bull. It is true that Ocon was 30 seconds further behind Alonso in the race when he stopped on lap 54, which meant that Alpine had more time to assess the changing track conditions as they were getting worse, but it still suggests Alonso would have easily found the nine seconds he needed. passing to the intermediates on lap 54.

Another proof of the advantage Alonso could have gained was offered by his teammate. Lance Stroll switched to intermediates at the end of lap 51 and on lap 53, his first full lap with the rain crossover tire, he set a pace of 1:32.189. Although Alonso and Verstappen were both quicker using slicks on lap 53, Verstappen’s pace then slipped to 1:38.964 on lap 54 – showing how much of an advantage could have been gained by using intermediates compared to slicks from lap 54.

Why didn’t Aston Martin install intermediates on Lap 54?

After the race, Alonso seemed surprised so many journalists were questioning the team’s strategy. Second place in Monaco is a very good result for the team, and he delivered it with impressive dynamism. Moreover, the result means he is now just 12 points behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in the fight for second place in the championship.

Unlike Verstappen, Alonso started Sunday’s race on hard tires in hopes the durability of the compound would give him more strategic options later in the race. Although he sacrificed a small amount of performance in the early part of the Grand Prix, the strategy worked out perfectly as he could take advantage if the team had made the most of the wet weather and moved up to the intermediates on lap 54.

For the Aston Martin defence, the thunderstorm that hit the track was initially isolated at Portier and it was unclear whether it would lessen rather than intensify.

“Very wet through [Turns] 7 and 8, probably good for intermediates,” Alonso told team radio. “But the rest of the track would probably be too dry – I don’t know, mate.”

After the race, Alonso added: “For me it was very clear that the track on that lap where we stopped was completely dry, apart from turns 7 and 8, so how could I put the intermediates? was completely dry — 99% of the track.

“So I stopped for the dry. The weather forecast was a light shower, a small amount of rain on top of what we had as a team.

“And we had a lot of margin behind us to put on the dry tires and if necessary the inter tyres. Maybe it was safer, I don’t know.

“That minute and a half it took to go back through turns 5, 6, 7 and 8, that completely changed. The lap on dry tires, it was very wet when I got to those corners. The lap we we stopped, it was completely dry.”

Speaking shortly after the race, Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack said he was unsure the decision cost the team the race, but justified the thought process on the pit wall.

“The thing is obviously you’re trying to stay as long as you can in such conditions when you don’t really know what’s going to happen,” he said. “To be honest, we hadn’t expected that much rain, so we thought it would just be a short downpour and it would dry out quickly as the track was very hot.

“Then normally we say, ‘OK, we stay out one or two or three more laps’, but the tires were already quite worn and we saw the temperatures drop, so it was a bit of a risk.

“When the car came with that information, we said, ‘OK, let’s put the mediums in’, but when the car left, I mean shortly after, we saw that it was really raining heavily and we had to come back.”

One factor Aston Martin could not have foreseen was that Verstappen made a big mistake on his turn at Portier. On slicks, Verstappen ran wide, slid along the barrier and then continued, costing him considerable time. If he hadn’t made the mistake, he probably would have had enough buffer on Alonso to make a later lap for the intermediates and hold on to the lead.

“When a world-class driver like Max comes out like that, you know, you think it’s better that you don’t too,” Krack said. “So at the end of the day, these are calls that are made in a very short period of time when you may not have the same information as everyone else.

“It depends on where your driver is on the track and where he is in the garage. So I think overall we shouldn’t be too greedy. We should look back and see what our goals were.”


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