Fernando Alonso of Alpine claims that prior to "massive vibrations" on his tyres forcing a third late pitstop, he was "going to P6" from last in the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix.
Due to his Alpine going into “complete blackout” prior to Saturday’s sprint race, which he was schedule to start from ninth, the 2 time world champion Fernando Alonso was forced to start Sunday’s 71-lap grand prix from the rear of the field. Alonso was initially placed on the hard tyres by Alpine, which he used to enter the top 10 when the medium runners around him began to halt. He made his first pit stop on lap 27 for another set of hard tyres, then on lap 57, when Carlos Sainz’s failing Ferrari brought out the virtual safety car, he made his planned changeover to medium tyres. He had to pit again the very next lap due to vibrations on those tyres “after the first sector” of his out-lap, which dropped him to 14th before he battled through to earn one point in 10th. Before the issue developed, Alonso thought he could place sixth, just behind teammate Esteban Ocon, although he stated he “was really delighted and excited with the car performance” throughout the race.
Alonso made light of the question, responding to Motorsport.com, “To have more fun and more overtaking! “It was a tricky race, at the beginning we were all in a DRS train and that was quite difficult to overtake, but I felt so much faster than the cars around. In a way I’m very pleased and upbeat about the car performance today, because cars that we are fighting normally with, today they were really slow compared to our pace so that’s a very good sign. We pitted under the VSC and we were heading to P6, because I was just behind Lando [Norris] with new tyres doing 1m08s at the end, it was very easy to pass them. Maybe finishing just behind Esteban [was possible] which could be amazing for the team, fifth and sixth, especially starting last. And I felt huge vibrations on the tyres immediately after the first sector so we decided to pit again. I exit P14, nine laps to go and I recovered to P10.” said Alonso.
Cause of the problem
At this point, the reason of the vibration is unknown, according to Alpine team manager Otmar Szafnauer, who also ruled out a fitting issue with the wheel because of a new locking mechanism the team has. “I don’t know what was causing the vibration yet,” he said. “But we came in, had a look around and we had a new set of mediums, which was good, and we changed to the new set of mediums, he went off and the vibration was gone. I don’t know if it was wheel weights or what. We have a wheel mechanism where once it’s tight, it’s tight, it doesn’t come off. It’s a new thing for us, the FIA approved it. Tim Goss knows exactly how it works, and once the wheel is on it can’t come off unless you take it off.” said Otmar.