Fernando Alonso has said running in clean air in front was the key factor which helped him fend of Sergio Perez in a dramatic late battle for third in the Brazilian GP.
The Aston Martin driver came under immense pressure from the Mexican in the closing stages of the race at Interlagos as he looked to hold on to the final podium spot, with the Red Bull clearly having the superior pace on track.
And Perez did manage to get briefly passed the Spaniard on the final lap at Turn 1, before Alonso snatched the place back at the end of the next DRS zone at Turn 4.
He then was able to just hold onto the position in a drag race to the finish line, eventually taking the chequered flag just 0.053s ahead of the Red Bull to secure his eighth podium of the year.
Speaking to media after the session, Alonso explained how his positioning had helped keep the charging Perez at bay.
“I think when you run in front of another car, you have better downforce, you have clean air and that was maybe good for me in terms of tyre management,” Alonso said.
“And he was struggling a little bit going into 10, 11 and 12 behind another car and that was probably the game that we were playing.
“Those three corners were crucial for the overtaking opportunity and when you are the car in front you have better grip always.”
No time to relax
Alonso was engaged in a strategic battle throughout the race in Sao Paolo, and he said it ultimately came down to tyre management at the end of the race when he had just enough grip to keep Perez behind at the line.
“It was a very intense race and there was no time to relax, very strategic race as well as saving the tyres, saving the battery always in case you needed on a DRS opportunity for Checo,” Alonso said.
“And then, honestly, I thought that I had things under control in the last stint, until maybe five laps to the end where I started pushing it even more, I had more juice in the tyres and I thought everything was fine and then Checo was playing the same game.”
“And he over took me two laps to the end and I thought okay, this is gone. And then I had one more chance and it was enough.”
And the Spaniard said the move to get past the Red Bull in the dying stages of the race was a particular highlight in a masterclass of defensive driving.
But he added that there was a much earlier moment in the race which had put him in a position to be fighting with Perez in the first place.
“Obviously, the last lap overtaking him, it was quite a lot of commitment. Because we would were both all or nothing in a few corners,” he said.
“But I think, to be honest, the most important overtake of the race was to Hamilton into 10 in Lap 1 that changed my race.
“You know if I start before and I have to fight with Hamilton in the first stint, even if I can eventually get him from Lap 10 or whatever, my tyres will never be in a condition to stand the first stintand then have a tire advantage to Checo in the second or third stint.
“So for me that is one crucial moment of my race and it’s Lap 1 into 10 with Hamilton.”