Fernando Alonso suggested he was looking forward to his partnership with Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon “finally” being over after the pair ruined each other’s races with a collision in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix Sprint.
Armed with a car that had shown strong pace throughout the weekend and in solid starting positions of sixth (Ocon) and seventh (Alonso), Alpine appeared well placed to strike a further blow against McLaren in the battle for fourth in the constructors’ championship.
However, the pair made contact twice on the first lap, and both cars suffered damage that would see Alonso finish 15th and Ocon 18th, with no points and poor starting positions for Sunday’s full-length race.
“(It’s) far from ideal when you touch on the first lap of the sprint race because it’s too short to come back,” Alonso said.
“On a positive side, the pace was very good today, close to the leaders actually. P15 we start tomorrow and if we have this pace. We can score points tomorrow.”
Ocon forced Alonso off track as the Spaniard attempted an overtake around the outside of Turn 4 on the opening lap, which caused him to lose control as he drove over the kerb and suffer a snap that caused the pair to make minor contact.
That was somewhat of a reprieve, but the pair failed to learn their lesson. In the closing stages of the first lap, Alonso once more tried to initiate a pass at the start of the home straight, but apparent confusion saw them make contact once more, with the damage this time more significant, and ultimately causing both to finish outside the points.
The Alpine duo were called to see the stewards after the race, with Alonso ultimately adjudged to have been at fault for the second collision, as he was given a five-second time penalty that dropped him to 18th, and lifted Ocon to 17th.
Speaking before that decision, Alonso, who is leaving Alpine to join Aston Martin at the end of the season, was critical of his team-mate, as he made reference to earlier incidents in the season.
Asked whether he had spoken to Ocon, Alonso said: “No, not really.”
“I don’t need to. It’s one more race and then it’s over finally.
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“It was very close to the wall in Jeddah, close to the wall in Budapest, today in Turn 4, now here.
“It’s the way these things are. Sometimes it’s very competitive inside the team.”
Ocon: Alonso will be calm for the race
Ocon, also speaking before the stewards’ ruling, played down the incidents, insisting Alonso would have calmed down in time for Sunday’s race, if the Spaniard hadn’t already.
“It was unfortunate for the team really what happened,” Ocon said. “We were in such a good position and we are now at the back with a lot of work to do tomorrow.
“So, it is going to be important to work together tomorrow to come back through the field.
“It is unfortunate what happened on lap one. I was trying to attack the McLaren, I took my line into Turn 4 and Fernando came out of nowhere on the outside and we touched.
“From there on, my race was pretty much over.
“I am quite calm. If he isn’t, he will be for tomorrow.”
Alpine condemn ‘unacceptable’ online abuse
Later on Saturday evening, Alpine released a statement condemning the online reaction to the incidents between their drivers.
“Whatever happens on track, there is absolutely no excuse for hateful comments, abuse or toxicity to be directed towards our drivers, team members, fans or indeed anybody online,” the statement said.
“Of all of the comments that we received across our social media channels during and after today’s Sprint qualifying, we received 882 toxic comments, 162 of which were severely toxic. This is wholly unacceptable.
“What we have seen today is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. We continue to see hate and discrimination online, and as a team, will not tolerate this.
“We will take action against individuals or groups who produce or disseminate social media posts that contain or encourage online abuse of our drivers, team members, and fans.”
Vettel understanding after Stroll’s ‘naughty’ manoeuvre
Alonso and Ocon weren’t the only team-mates to clash during Saturday’s Sprint, with Aston Martin duo Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll also hampering each other.
Vettel, who appeared to be the faster of the Aston Martins, was challenging Stroll for 11th on lap nine when the Canadian forced him onto the grass in the run to Turn 4.
Vettel, who is retiring from F1 at the end of the season, was fortunate to retain control of his car and return to the track, which he did before easing past Stroll soon after.
“That was naughty driving there from Lance Stroll, that was too much, way too much,” Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle said on commentary at the time.
The stewards agreed, handing Stroll a 10-second time penalty, which would relegate him from 12th to 17th in the final standings, and giving him three penalty points on his licence for dangerous driving.
Despite the stewards clearly ruling in his favour, Vettel, who ultimately finished a place outside the points in ninth, offered a measured assessment of the incident.
“It’s obviously split seconds,” he said. “I went to the inside and the gap closed and it was really tight and I went off the track, which was difficult to recover from, I was sort of stuck sitting on the plank but fortunately I got back.
“After that we were able to work together, and I was able to use the pace I had in the car.
“It’s a fine line. You’re fighting for your spot. Obviously, it’s important to defend, on the other hand, it’s always trying to weigh up whether you are losing more than you’re gaining (by battling).
“Plus we are obviously trying to work together, so I think today in the end we could have done better, both of us, to try to get a better positioning for the team.”
The three penalty points given to Stroll takes his current tally to eight, which is only four short of the 12-point limit that would see him incur a one-race ban.
Speaking before the penalty point ruling, the Canadian only offered a limited response when quizzed about the incident.
“I have to look at it again I haven’t really seen the video,” he said. “So probably I didn’t leave enough space.”