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Alonso explains mid-race soft tyre strategy in F1 Chinese GP

Fernando Alonso had to switch to soft tyres midway through the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix because he had no hards remaining, having used his allocation over the sprint weekend.

The Aston Martin driver started the Chinese GP with just one set of fresh hards and two sets of fresh mediums, so when he started the race on mediums and switched to his sole hards after 11 laps, he was left without the strategy flexibility of his rivals when the first safety car period was triggered to recover Valtteri Bottas’ stricken Sauber.

As Alonso had no more hard tyres that would get him to the finish – like the six drivers that finished ahead of him – Aston Martin swapped him to softs for the restart.

But, with over half the race to go, it committed Alonso to a three-stopper and he made a late pitstop for his second set of mediums. That stop dropped him from fifth to 12th, but the Spaniard charged back up to seventh and took the fastest lap bonus point.

“We didn't have any more hard tyres - we had one soft and one medium and 35 laps in front of us which, in our calculations, it was not possible to make it to the end,” Alonso said.

“There were a lot of safety car laps to remove the Sauber and, once the safety car came in, more safety car laps because they crashed.”

He added: “I felt fast but the positions were not looking good when I was P10. It was difficult and it was our only strategy to do.

“But it was good to have the fastest lap, good to feel the car fast. We have a good DRS this year so it was very easy to overtake. I nearly crashed at the last corner, I was pushing my maximum.”

Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack added that, due to high tyre degradation in the sprint race, the squad was concerned about making a two-stop strategy work with one hard and two mediums, so took the “risk” of the three-stopper.

“We thought, it's probably better to use it - because we had a new soft remaining - to use that one,” said Krack.

“It was a little bit of a risk. Then when the safety car came, or to say, this extended safety period - you could not make use of the soft in that time.

“Then it was [about] limiting the damage. All in all, if you look at the pace of the car, which was not good enough in the race, the optimum result without the safety car would have been maybe sixth. Now we finished seventh with the fastest lap. Damage limitation.”

At the start, Alonso jumped Sergio Perez to take second place behind Max Verstappen but knew sustaining that position was unlikely due to Aston Martin being “the fifth-fastest team” in China.

“Yesterday, the same with Lewis [Hamilton], I was P2 when Lando went off and I said 'OK, I may try to lead the race for at least one lap'. Today, I passed Checo and thought, ‘OK, I will do it again’ but I had no choice or opportunity,” Alonso explained. “Hopefully one day soon.

“The wind direction changed this morning so in Turns 1 and 2 it was a headwind. So I knew that if I was parallel to someone in Turns 1 and 2, I had the opportunity to attack. I was very aggressive.

“Then, eventually, you fall back to your natural position, which is ninth and 10th. We keep repeating the same things but we see every Sunday that we are the fifth-fastest team.

“But, for whatever reason, they [Aston’s rivals] don't put the laps together on a Saturday, we qualify in front of them and then there is this fight every Sunday. Let’s see if we can improve the car.”

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