Fernando Alonso asserts his move on Lewis Hamilton was more “important” to his eventual Sao Paulo Grand Prix podium than his last lap overtake on Sergio Perez.

Having lost a position to Hamilton on the original race start, Alonso capitalised on the Briton failing to pass Lando Norris at Turn 1 on the second standing restart following a stoppage to successfully clear the Mercedes driver on the approach to Descida do Lago.

Alonso was able to comfortably ease away from the struggling Mercedes, enabling him to extend his stints to leave him with fresher tyres than Perez during the final laps.

Although Alonso expects that he would have overhauled Hamilton at some stage, the Spaniard asserts that the timing of the move proved critical to defeating Perez’s Red Bull.

“Obviously the last lap, overtaking him [Perez], it was quite a lot of commitment because we were both all or nothing in a few corners,” Alonso reflected. “But I think to be honest, the most important overtaking of the race has been Hamilton into Turn 4 on lap one. That changed my race.

“If I start P4 and I have to fight with Hamilton in the first stint even if I can eventually get him from lap 10 or whatever, my tyres will never be in a condition to extend the first stint and then have a tyre advantage to Checo in the second stint and third stint, so for me there is one crucial moment of my race and it’s lap one, into Turn 4 with Hamilton.”

Fernando Alonso (ESP), Aston Martin Racing 05.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day.

Despite saving a fresh set of Soft tyres for the closing stint, Perez soon slashed the 3s gap on older rubber and was courting the rear of the Aston Martin for several laps.

Although the Red Bull was a superior car at Interlagos, Alonso was seen utilising a wider line into Juncao to continuously deny the Mexican an overtaking opportunity.

“Yeah, it was a very intense race. And there was no time to relax,” Alonso conceded. “Very strategic race as well – saving the tyres, saving the battery always, in case you need it on a DRS opportunity for Checo.

“I think when you run just in front of another car, you have better downforce, you have clean air and that was maybe good for maintenance of tyre management.

“And he was struggling a little bit to go into Turns 10, 11 and 12 behind another car. And that was probably the game that we were playing. Those three corners were crucial for the overtaking opportunity. And yeah, when you are the car in front, you have better grip, always.”

Alonso admits he thought he had it under control with five laps remaining, but Perez eventually got close enough to dive down the inside into Turn 1 on the penultimate lap.

However, Perez was unable to break Alonso’s resolve and the two-time champion swooped back into third into Turn 4 on the last lap, taking third across the line by only 0.053s.

“Honestly I thought that I had things under control in the last stint, until maybe five laps to the end, where I started pushing a little bit more,” Alonso revealed. “I had more juice in the tyres and I thought everything was fine.

“And Checo was playing the same game. He had good tyres at the end of the race and he overtook me two laps to the end. And I thought ‘OK, this is gone’ and then I had one more chance and it was enough.”

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