The amusing pitwall moment triggered by Alpine's soft F1 tyre choice

Fernando Alonso brought Formula 1’s first sprint race alive at the British Grand Prix, when an inspired choice of soft tyre helped him catapult up the field at the start.

The amusing pitwall moment triggered by Alpine's soft F1 tyre choice

That brilliant opening lap, and the stern defence of his positions after that as he nursed his rubber, were the clear highlight from Saturday's action.

But Alpine has revealed how its pitwall crew turned to face its strategist and wonder if they were geniuses or chumps when its tyre choice was first revealed.

F1 teams had a completely free selection of tyre compound for Saturday’s inaugural sprint qualifying race, with the medium being the most obvious route because of its durability.

OPINION: The successes and warning signs from F1's first sprint race

However, Alpine felt that the soft would be a better bet. It was confident, after putting some miles on the compound in final practice, that it would deliver an advantage at the start and that its degradation could be managed enough to get through the 17 laps.

It was the only team therefore to commit both its drivers to the soft, rather than the safer bet of the medium.

But, when the tyre blankets came off on the grid to reveal what everyone else had chosen, it was shocked that so few of its rivals had agreed with its choice.

With only four cars in total taking the soft – the two Alpines, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen – it knew it was in the minority.

Alpine’s F1 executive director Marcin Budkowski says it was right then that those who sit on the pitwall all turned to look at the strategist.

“There's this moment where all the teams remove the blankets on the grid, so we were sat on the pitwall and you see everybody's tyre,” said Budkowski.

“We thought more people would do the soft. But there was us, Valtteri and Kimi on the soft, and there was not a lot else!

“It was a team call at the end, but the strategists were quite adamant that they thought it was the right thing.

“There are six of us at the pitwall, and five of us turn to Matthieu [Dubois], our chief strategist, who looked at us and he looked a little bit like: 'OK, either we just got this right, or we got this spectacularly wrong, and we're going to find out!'

“And you know, they got it right and hats off to them!”

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

The soft proved to be an inspired choice, with Alonso brilliantly capitalising on the extra grip offered by the tyre to surge from 11th on the grid up to fifth on the first lap.

Although the ultimate pace of the Alpine, allied to the increased degradation of the soft, meant Alonso could not hold off McLaren duo Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, his seventh-placed finish at the flag was still a great result.

Budkowski was full of praise for how Alonso had approached that opening lap and proved to be the star of the sprint race.

“I wasn't here in 2005-2006, I was at Ferrari, but a few people said that’s the starts that Fernando used to do in these times,” he explained.

“And I think that's part of him just being clever and a bit of a fox of exploiting every opportunity on track. We know his racecraft is second to none, he is exceptional in that.

“And it could be a bit of experience, as well. I mean, we've seen Fernando doing well, Seb [Vettel] doing well, and Kimi did well. So maybe there's a bit of people who have this kind of nose for these kind of opportunities.

“It's something different. A different format, different circumstances, and maybe some people were kind of a bit wary of attacking. We've seen in Baku with Fernando, when he smells blood he just goes for every possible gap and every opportunity.”

shares
comments

Related video

Leclerc: Flat-out sprint was like F1’s refuelling era

Previous article

Leclerc: Flat-out sprint was like F1’s refuelling era

Next article

Verstappen: Pole from F1 sprint race doesn’t feel "proper"

Verstappen: Pole from F1 sprint race doesn’t feel "proper"
Load comments
The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break Plus

The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break

OPINION: Formula 1 is about to break up for summer 2021, with the title battles finely poised. But it’s not just the latest round of Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton that will be worth watching this weekend in Hungary, as plenty of drivers are eying big results to change the stories of their seasons so far

How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Plus

How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but 
flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021
The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address Plus

The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address

OPINION: Changes to the layout of Abu Dhabi’s circuit aim to reverse the trend of insipid Formula 1 races there - the promoter has even described one of the new corners as “iconic”. And that, argues STUART CODLING, is one of this venue’s abiding failings

Formula 1
Jul 26, 2021
How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't Plus

How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't

Last year's Formula 2 runner-up Callum Ilott could be on his way to becoming the first Briton to contest a grand prix in an Alfa Romeo since Reg Parnell in 1950. But, says OLEG KARPOV, the Ferrari Driver Academy protege is having to temper his ambition at the moment – outwardly at least…

Formula 1
Jul 25, 2021
The signs that point to F1's rude health Plus

The signs that point to F1's rude health

OPINION: Formula 1's calendar might still be facing disruption as the pandemic affects travel but, says MARK GALLAGHER, the business itself is fundamentally strong thanks to the epic rivalry taking place on track and the consistent arrival of new sponsors

Formula 1
Jul 24, 2021
The unexpected benefit of F1’s sprint race repeat Plus

The unexpected benefit of F1’s sprint race repeat

OPINION: Formula 1's sprint race trial at Silverstone drew mixed feedback on Saturday, but there remained the true test of how it would impact Sunday's Grand Prix. While fans were busy marvelling at Fernando Alonso's progress, a key lesson was being learned that would directly contribute to the dramatic lap one clash at Copse the following day

Formula 1
Jul 22, 2021
The off-track considerations that led to F1’s Hamilton/Verstappen Silverstone shunt Plus

The off-track considerations that led to F1’s Hamilton/Verstappen Silverstone shunt

OPINION: Formula 1’s 2021 title fight turned ugly last weekend when Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collided at the start of the British Grand Prix. Verstappen thankfully walked away unharmed, but this had been a clash long-since coming

Formula 1
Jul 21, 2021
Will 2022's all-new cars look like F1's concept model? Plus

Will 2022's all-new cars look like F1's concept model?

Formula 1 provided its clearest example yet of what the 2022 cars are set to look like when it presented a full-scale concept to the world during the build-up to last weekend’s British Grand Prix. Underneath the special shiny livery was a design that hinted at the future, but teams will be digging into key areas that may reap differing results

Formula 1
Jul 20, 2021