By Matt Morlidge
Fernando Alonso said he drove with “anger” at the Portuguese GP as the two-time world champion bounced back from a disappointing qualifying and showed signs of his ‘gladiator’ form of old in an improved Alpine car.
Alonso, in the third race back of his F1 comeback, started 13th but made his way back up to eighth come the chequered flag, thanks to a storming finish where he overtook Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz.
It was Alonso’s best race result since the 2018 Singapore GP.
Watching the late surge from the Spaniard, 39, Sky F1’s Nico Rosberg said that he “could see the gladiator Alonso that we all remember from the back of the day”.
To which Alonso replied: “A little bit yeah, I agree on that.”
Alonso, who won his two titles in 2004 and 2005 but started off 2021 with a DNF in Bahrain and a 10th place at Imola, added: “I think in Bahrain I was more careful on everything to complete the first Grand Prix.
“Imola I was completely… I was so uncomfortable with the car in the wet conditions.
“So I think this was really the first race where I was really extracting the maximum out of the car. And I was upset after yesterday’s qualifying, so today that anger was probably on track as well.”
It wasn’t just Alonso that shone at Portimao – but his team Alpine.
The rebranded outfit had endured a quiet start to their life post-Renault this season – racing towards the back of the midfield through the opening two rounds – but ended the Portuguese GP in seventh and eighth.
Esteban Ocon finished just ahead of Alonso.
“We were fighting with one McLaren, one Ferrari, things that were unthinkable in Imola and Bahrain,” explained Alonso. “I think we made a very big step forward in terms of the car performance.”
The 2021 season continues with Alonso’s home race, the Spanish GP, next weekend.
“I wish this is the real pace,” said Alonso. “In Imola and Bahrain we were in a different fight, here we were with the McLaren, Ferrari and AlphaTauri. We would love to keep going like this.”
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