Fernando Alonso thought a win in the Hungarian Grand Prix was on the table before encountering a thrilling battle with Lewis Hamilton, which he believes was crucial for Alpine Racing teammate Esteban Ocon’s victory hopes.
Ocon was leading Sebastian Vettel for much of the race, but Carlos Sainz and Hamilton were caught quickly by Alonso after the Spaniard made a later pit stop, with the top five closing up. After Hamilton made his pit stop, Alonso was certain he would finish in the top three due to his pace advantage and was targeting victory until he got stuck behind the Ferrari.
“I was so convinced about the podium,” Alonso said when asked by RACER about his mindset late on. “I was catching Carlos and Hamilton quite quickly. I was setting the fastest laps, and I thought, ‘I will overtake them and try to win the race!’ That was my mind at the moment.
“I started realizing winning the race was not possible and overtaking Hamilton and Sainz was the target, for sure. Hamilton pit, so it was only Sainz separating myself from the podium. I thought, ‘OK I will go for it and the podium is a real possibility.’ Then it was not enough pace on the straight especially, it was lacking, to pass Carlos.
“So I start thinking that if I was right behind Carlos with the DRS I could protect myself from Hamilton and finish fourth. But every battle I had with Lewis I was losing the DRS from Carlos because I was defending, so it was just a fight of trying to keep the fourth, but it was not enough. But yes, I was thinking about the podium, and even the race win for a moment. So, I was optimistic, too optimistic!”
This battle was everything.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 1, 2021
Hamilton’s stop saw the Mercedes driver rapidly reel in the top four – at times by as much as four seconds per lap – but Alonso held the defending champion at bay for 10 laps in a classic battle that also protected Ocon’s lead.
“No, the team didn’t tell me anything, but I knew more or less what the situation of the race was,” said Alonso, who ended up finishing fifth. “I was looking at the big screens. I knew Esteban and Vettel were fighting and were two corners in front of us, and with 20 laps to the end, and Lewis coming two-to-three seconds faster, that was enough to win the race, probably. I knew every lap I could hold him behind was gold for Esteban’s win.
“Secondly, I thought I could honestly not hold him more than one or two laps, but on the last couple of corners he seemed to struggle a bit to follow me, which was enough to open a gap on the straight and defend. I think he learned a couple of different lines in the last three corners after the 10 laps behind me, and was able to pass Carlos in just one lap applying those lines.”