While Mercedes left America happy with a top-two and Haas F1 team got the top-10 they hoped for, not everybody left Austin on a good note. Just ask Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
In the late stages of the United States Grand Prix, Alonso was making his way through the field aggressively, catching Massa for the fifth position. Alonso made his move on Lap 52 in Turn 15; however, contact happened, which resulted in both drivers getting off track and a punctured tire for Massa. Alonso went on to finish fifth, while Massa finished seventh following a late pit stop for fresh tires.
When the contact happened, Alonso initially said Massa had ‘closed the door’ on him over his team radio, and that he was ‘already alongside him’ when he made the move. McLaren-Honda Racing Director Eric Boullier called the moves by Alonso in the late stages “a series of brilliant passing maneuvers.”
“It was good and interesting today, I enjoyed it, especially the final part of the race,” Alonso said. “To get past the Williams today you needed to overtake them in different places, like tight, slow-speed corners, and quite forcefully, and it was tough but hopefully enjoyable for the fans.
“Our result today is nice for motivation, so I’m happy with fifth, but we gained a couple of positions because of other people going out, and our pace hasn’t been great all weekend here, so we need to understand the reasons for that.”
Massa, meanwhile, had a different take on the move made by Alonso in the late stages of the race.
“At the end, Fernando dived into the corner I was taking, hit my car and I got a puncture because of it,” he said. “It destroyed every opportunity I had to finish the race in sixth, and potentially fifth. We still finished seventh and closed the gap to Force India, but it should have been more. It’s time to look ahead to Mexico.”
Following the race, the F1 Race Stewards announced they would review the incident as it took place on track, however, decided to take no further action against Alonso due to determining ‘no driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for the collision.’
After tying his best finish o the season thus far, Alonso hopes to carry the positive momentum into Mexico this weekend, looking to score his first Formula 1 podium in two years. He finished 20th last year in Mexico after losing power
“Last year we went to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with a lot of unknowns and relatively little information about how the cars would perform on the reconfigured circuit,” he said. “It poses a very different set of challenges to many other circuits because of the compromise you need between good downforce on the fast straights and also strong balance in the twisty stadium section – and then there’s the altitude, which affects performance in itself. It will be difficult to bring all of the elements together to get the best out of a lap, but I’m looking forward to seeing where our package compares to last year.”
The challenge of Mexico is recognized by Boullier, who noted it’s a hard circuit due to the high average speeds and big braking zones and combined with the higher altitude, it makes the power unit work harder than normal
“It will be interesting to see how our improving package fares on this challenging configuration, and I hope we can bring all of the elements together to see a more promising performance there than we managed last year,” he added. “Saturday will be the most crucial day for us, as we need to give ourselves the biggest chance in the race, and we can only do that by maximizing everything in qualifying. With the incredible support from the fans, we’ll work hard to give them a great weekend of racing.”
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