Qatar GP: Fernando Alonso opens up for the long-awaited F1 podium return and why it ‘means a lot’

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“You have to dedicate your whole life to this sport. Training, testing, simulator, racing and this passion and this love of the sport, that’s exactly why we do this. For this kind of moments”; Fernando Alonso is now hoping for a springboard for a more regular match in 2022 for Alpine

Last updated: 21/11/21 21:53

Alpine's Fernando Alonso was delighted to reach his first podium since 2014 after finishing third in Qatar

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Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was delighted to reach his first podium since 2014 after finishing third in Qatar

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was delighted to reach his first podium since 2014 after finishing third in Qatar

Fernando Alonso has admitted he had begun to wonder if he would ever finish on the podium in Formula 1 again as the former world champion completed a seven-year and 105-race wait for the 98th podium visit in his illustrious career.

The 40-year-old Spaniard honored today’s driver in F1’s first Qatar GP for Alpine by impressively getting what turned out to be a challenging one-stop tire strategy to finish behind only title challengers Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, and ahead Sergio Perez.

After already impressing to qualify as number five on Saturday, Alonso was promoted two places after falling to Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas before the race, and then overtook Pierre Gasly in what he described as a “very important” move on the initial round to become number two in the early stages.

The typically hectic early move laid the foundation for the next 56 laps.

Although Alonso is among the most successful drivers in the history of the sport with two world championships and 32 race victories, podiums had avoided him since his last year at Ferrari in 2014.

“This is the 98th podium in my career, but I tell you, from the 97th to the 98th has been a very long time,” said Alonso, who returned to F1 this year after two seasons away. Sky Sports F1.

“This trophy means a lot because you’re up and down your career, there are good moments, bad moments, but we always show determination.

The 104 race runs without a podium

Teams (seasons) race Best result
Ferrari (2014) 8 4
McLaren (2015-2018) 77 5
Alpine (2021) 19 4

“The dedication you put into Formula 1, you have to dedicate your whole life to this sport. Training, testing, simulator, racing and this passion and this love of the sport, that’s exactly why we do this. For this kind of moment . “

Alonso reflected on his long-awaited return to the podium and said of the performance: “Obviously a win is a win, so it can not rank too high, but it’s like ‘finally!’

“We were very close a few times [this season] and I was just wondering if I would get a podium again in my career or not.

“You never know what’s going to happen next year, so I’m glad we took this one. Let’s see if we can keep the momentum going now for next year.”

Alonso on the podium: Then and now

The double world champion set a new record for the longest distance between podiums on Sunday, after finishing on the podium – in second place – at the Hungarian GP in July 2014.

Alonso’s latest top-three appearance in F1 comes 18 years and seven months after his first in 2003, only Michael Schumacher (20 years and three months) has achieved a longer interval between virgin and final podiums in the sport.

‘I’m happy to mark the podium with them’

He was particularly pleased to join Hamilton and Verstappen, who are this year’s dueling title contenders, on the podium in a race where only two cars failed.

“With all due respect to all the riders, but being up there with Max and Lewis means the race was more or less normal,” Alonso added.

“There are a couple of podiums where something really big happened and then you ended up in that position. We deserved to be P3 today.”

Alpine, formerly known as Renault and still owned by the French manufacturer, has endured an inconsistent campaign, but their car was strong on the Losail International Circuit all weekend.

Esteban Ocon finished in fifth place, giving the team a total of 25 points in one day, AlphaTauri – their rivals in fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship, with which they started the weekend in a draw – did not score.

After returning to F1 with a firm eye on next year’s huge rule overhaul, designed to help level the playing field, Alonso hopes his first podium in 2021 could be the start of bigger things to come next season.

“The year has been better and better with the races,” said Alonso, who was close to podiums in Hungary and Turkey.

Sky F1's Ted Kravitz wandered around the fold after Lewis Hamilton's emphatic victory in Qatar, while Alpine's Fernando Alonso took his first podium since 2014

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Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz wandered around the fold after Lewis Hamilton’s emphatic victory in Qatar, while Alpine’s Fernando Alonso took his first podium since 2014

Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz wandered around the fold after Lewis Hamilton’s emphatic victory in Qatar, while Alpine’s Fernando Alonso took his first podium since 2014

“The plan is always to be ready in 2022 with the new rules and hopefully be competitive there. Without 2021, I would not be ready for next season because of that kind of race.

“You have to understand the tire strategy, the tire management, the start, the risk level that you put in different parts of the race. This has been a very good practice in 2021, so I feel ready now.

Asked about the prospect of competing closer to Hamilton and Verstappen on a more regular basis in 2022, Alonso replied: “It would be great to fight with them, they are both great champions and I am happy to feel the podium with them.”

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