Watch: Fernando Alonso drives through the sparks to his first podium in 7 years at 2021 F1 Qatar GP
As the race week starts for the 2023 F1 Qatar GP, we look back at one of the great drives from Fernando Alonso and how he got his first podium in seven years after an eventful race round the Lusail Circuit back in 2021. He even had to drive through loads of sparks and debris at one moment and defend several faster cars to secure the third position.
Fernando Alonso qualified brilliantly on Saturday, securing third place on the grid for the main race. When the race started, he even overtook Pierre Gasly to take second place behind Lewis Hamilton. Unfortunately, he was overtaken by Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas, and even Sergio Perez.
However, on Lap 33, Bottas encountered a puncture on his left front tire. As he limped through the track to get into the pit lane, his car produced loads of sparks from the wheelbase and the underbody. As Fernando Alonso came to overtake Bottas, he had to go through loads of sparks and debris from the Mercedes car.
Soon enough, the Alpine driver was back in third place after Sergio Perez pitted for medium tires on Lap 47. In the latter half of the race, Fernando Alonso did nothing but defend the third position, particularly from Perez. Since the Red Bull driver came out of the pits behind Alonso's teammate Esteban Ocon, the Spaniard came on the team radio and urged Ocon to defend against Checo as much as possible.
Though Perez was closing the gap on Alonso, the latter kept pushing to secure P3 at the 2021 F1 Qatar GP and stood on the podium after seven long years.
Fernando Alonso claims his performance levels have not dipped much despite a decline in Aston Martin's results
Fernando Alonso recently claimed that he has been performing the same way as he did at the start of the 2023 F1 season. Even though the Aston Martin driver is currently racing for a handful of points compared to what he was initially fighting for, he stated that he has been on the same level.
Alonso also gave an example of how Max Verstappen did not simply switch off his unprecedented consistency in Singapore and turned it back on in Japan. Speaking to RacingNews365, he said:
"I think the same throughout the season, but at the beginning of the year, I was fighting for nine or 10 points, and now I'm [fighting for] four or five, but I'm at the same level.
"It’s like Max [Verstappen], he didn't wake up this weekend and drive back on the top [as if] in Singapore he was just sleeping. He was P11 in Singapore and he was the best of all of us. He’s on pole [at Suzuka] and he's still the best."
As of now, Fernando Alonso is fourth in the drivers' championship with 174 points.