Fernando Alonso says the collisions with Esteban Ocon in the Sprint in Brazil were a one-off after they raced cleanly into the points in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix on Sunday.
Contact between the two drivers in Saturday’s Sprint left them with both damage and at the back of the field for the grand prix, but they delivered impressive drives as Alonso climbed through from 17th on the grid to fifth, with Ocon eighth.
Late in the race, Ocon pushed back against a team order but did quickly give a position up to Alonso once he had cleared Sebastian Vettel, and the Spaniard says the reaction to their clashes was overblown, claiming it was the only incident the pair have ever had as teammates.
“We both made mistakes, I accept the one on the straight, but I think the penalty was extremely harsh,” Alonso said. “We had exactly the same accident in Portimao a couple of years back, with Kimi (Raikkonen) and (Antonio) Giovinazzi and nothing happened – obviously, when you don’t damage the other car…
“OK, I take the penalty, I take the blame for that, but the races are on Sunday and anything can happen, as we saw. In two years I think we had one mistake; it was [on Saturday], we [both] got a lot of blame. We’ll take it, but I think we try to help the team every time we jump in the car, as we saw [in the race].
“It has been two years [of racing] clean. Some first laps we had some fights, because we start always together, we qualify very close. So in two years, we had one contact. OK, people want to do a big thing about that. But we have one contact in two years and [on Sunday] we recover everything we did [in the Sprint]. So we try to do the best for the team.”
Alpine’s reliability has proven costly at times this season, with a double retirement in Singapore and late stoppage for Alonso in Mexico leaving McLaren just five points behind in the constructors’ championship before of Sunday’s race at Interlagos. But with both McLarens failing to finish, the impressive recovery drives from Alonso and Ocon give Alpine some breathing space.
“I think our main concern is always reliability, it has been our weakest point,” Alonso said. “So if you are only five or six points ahead of McLaren, anything can happen if you don’t finish the race. Now, we have a little bit more margin, but, obviously, we still want to outscore them in Abu Dhabi and hopefully finish again in the top seven, top six.”