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“Huge vibrations” cost Alonso P6 shot from last in F1 Austrian GP

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso believes he was “heading to P6” from last in the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix before “huge vibrations” on his tyres forced a late second pitstop.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A522

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A522

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The double world champion was forced to start Sunday’s 71-lap grand prix from the back of the grid after his Alpine went into “full blackout” ahead of Saturday’s sprint race, which he was due to start from ninth.

Alpine put Alonso on the hard tyre to begin with, which he used to coast into the top 10 as the medium runners around him made their first stops.

He made his first pitstop on lap 27 for another set of hard tyres, then made his planned switch to mediums when the virtual safety car was called for Carlos Sainz’s expiring Ferrari on lap 57.

But vibrations on those tyres “after the first sector” on his outlap forced him to pit again on the very next lap, which dropped him to 14th before he fought through to take a single point in 10th.

Alonso believed it was possible to finish sixth, just behind team-mate Esteban Ocon, before the problem arose, but said he “was very pleased and upbeat about the car performance” in the race.

When asked by Autosport why he made a third stop, Alonso joked: “To have more fun and more overtaking!

“It was a tricky race, at the beginning we were all in a DRS train and that was quite difficult to overtake, but I felt so much faster than the cars around.

“In a way I'm very pleased and upbeat about the car performance today, because cars that we are fighting normally with, today they were really slow compared to our pace so that's a very good sign.

“Once they pitted, we had some free air and we maximised our strategy, hard-hard-medium.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“We pitted under the VSC and we were heading to P6, because I was just behind Lando [Norris] with new tyres doing 1m08s at the end, it was very easy to pass them.

“Maybe finishing just behind Esteban [was possible] which could be amazing for the team, fifth and sixth, especially starting last.

“And I felt huge vibrations on the tyres immediately after the first sector so we decided to pit again. I exit P14, nine laps to go and I recovered to P10.”

Alpine team boss Otmar Szafanauer says the cause of the vibration remains unknown at this stage, but ruled out it being a problem with the fitting of the wheel itself due to a new locking system the squad has.

“I don’t know what was causing the vibration yet,” he said.

“But we came in, had a look around and we had a new set of mediums, which was good, and we changed to the new set of mediums, he went off and the vibration was gone.

“I don’t know if it was wheel weights or what.

“We have a wheel mechanism where once it’s tight, it’s tight, it doesn’t come off.

“It’s a new thing for us, the FIA approved it. Tim Goss knows exactly how it works, and once the wheel is on it can’t come off unless you take it off.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Alonso was placed under investigation by race stewards for his Alpine being unsafe in its release during the pitstop, but no further action was taken.

Following a concerted review, which revealed there was "nothing in the video to indicate that the pit stop was anything other than a normal pit stop, including that the wheel concerned appears to fully engage and become fully tight", a stewards' note said that the wheel "slightly disengages from the car, by a very small amount".

"After the race, the left front wheel with the tyre and the axel were inspected by the Technical Delegate and the Head of Single Seater Technical Affairs," it went on.

"They reported to the Stewards that the damage to the wheel and axel is consistent with a parts failure in all likelihood subsequent to the exit of the car from the pits.

"Based on the footage of the car from the moment the wheel was fitted, until the failure became apparent, the Stewards conclude that the wheel was fully fitted, and that subsequent to the failure, all the retention systems worked as designed.

"The Stewards therefore conclude that the car was not released in an unsafe condition."

At one stage, Alonso was squeezed on the straight between Turns 3 and 4 when he was overtaking AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

As he came past, Alonso wagged his finger at Tsunoda, with the Spaniard later telling media that he didn’t understand the AlphaTauri driver’s actions.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT03

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT03

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

“I was on the grass, so I don't know why he was pushing me that far,” Alonso added.

“I was with the DRS on the grass, flat out, and there was no way to defend.

“I was already side-by-side, so I don't know. I feel like those kind of things, it's better to avoid at 300 km/h, but it was okay.”

Jonathan Noble contributed to this report

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