While Esteban Ocon was rightly taking the plaudits for his first ever Formula 1 victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, both he and his Alpine team were full of praise for team mate Fernando Alonso too, after the Spaniard played a “crucial” role in holding up Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during the race, according to sporting director Alan Permane.
After his first ever F1 victory – which saw Ocon congratulated by French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter – Ocon was quick to thank Alonso for defending “like a lion” in an epic scrap with Hamilton, which saw the Mercedes driver several times attempt and fail to pass Alonso for P4 in the final 10 laps.
And with Hamilton eventually finishing the race just 2.736s shy of Ocon in P3 on the road – later bumped up to P2 after Sebastian Vettel was disqualified – Alpine sporting director Permane didn’t hesitate when asked if Alonso’s robust defence had allowed Ocon to claim both his, and Alpine’s, maiden F1 win.
“100%, undoubtedly crucial,” Permane replied. “It was 11 laps [that Hamilton was behind him] I believe, and if he’d got past him on the first lap like he got past Carlos [Sainz] on the first time, I’m sure Lewis would have been there.
2021 Hungarian Grand Prix: Alonso defends brilliantly from charging Hamilton
“I think what we would have done if that is drop back a little bit, give Seb the DRS and use that to protect a little, but I don’t know if we would have held him off,” Permane added. “Maybe, maybe – and don’t forget, [Hamilton] pitted as one of the last people so he had very fresh tyres, he was one of the quickest people in that last stint.”
Alpine’s Executive Director Marcin Budkowski was similarly fulsome in his praise of Alonso, while adding that he was pleased to see his squad finally capitalise on a topsy-turvy race, after several near-misses for the team.
“Fernando has just proved his class,” said Budkowski, speaking on F1 TV’s Post-Race Show. “The thing that’s amazing with Fernando is how he reads races. He knew it was for position, for him potentially, but he knew he was also helping the team.
“It was a great collaboration between the two drivers, and also I’m massively proud of the team in Enstone and Viry, because we’ve had some tough moments these past few years and this year wasn’t easy, and it’s amazing to take the opportunity in this way.
“We’ve missed so many of these [opportunities] before,” Budkowski added. “We missed one in Baku, we missed in Monza last year where there was a bit of a crazy race, and this time we were there to take the opportunity and the win so it’s amazing.”