With the benefit of hindsight, Fernando Alonso had a good chance to win the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday, giving him his 33rd Formula One triumph. Alonso would have taken the lead with 23 circuits remaining had Aston Martin changed to intermediate wet-weather tires on lap 54 rather than slick medium-compound ones, and had he then completed a clean outlap with Max Verstappen pitting on lap 55 (as he really did).
It’s debatably difficult to predict what would have happened from Lap 54 onward given the shifting track conditions. But it’s also reasonable to assume that the Aston Martin driver would have taken the lead when you factor in how much time Verstappen lost by continuing to race on slick tires to the end of lap 55 and how much time Alonso had to gain by switching to intermediate tires on lap 54.
Alonso came from the pits on Lap 55 still in second place but 22 seconds behind Verstappen, a distance that widened over the course of the following laps. In actuality, Aston Martin realized its
tyre selection error a lap later and summoned Alonso back into the race.
What can we infer from the lap times?Alonso’s lead over Verstappen was less than nine seconds at the time of his pit stop on lap 54. Alonso’s in-lap on lap 54 was 20 seconds quicker than Verstappen’s in-lap on lap 55, indicating that if Aston Martin had fitted intermediate tyres on lap 54 and not required a second pit stop on lap 55, he would have made up more time than the nine seconds he needed.
Esteban Ocon, who came in third, provides a helpful comparison because he did change to intermediates on Lap 54, which cost the Red Bull team 15 seconds of lead time. Even though Ocon’s stop on Lap 54 put him 30 seconds further behind Alonso in the race and gave Alpine more time to monitor the deteriorating track conditions, it still seems likely that Alonso could have found the nine seconds he needed by switching to intermediate tires on that same lap.
His teammate provided more evidence of the advantage Alonso may have gotten. After changing to intermediate tires at the conclusion of lap 51, Lance Stroll posted a 1:32.189 speed on lap 53, his first full flying lap on the wet crossover tyre. Verstappen’s pace dropped to 1:38.964 on lap 54, despite the fact that Alonso and Verstappen were both faster on lap 53 while running slick tires, demonstrating how much of a lead intermediate tires would have had from lap 54 onward.
Why wasn’t an intermediate fitted to an Aston Martin on lap 54?
Alonso appeared startled that so many media members had concerns about the team’s strategy after the race. He produced a solid performance that helped the squad finish in second position at Monaco. Additionally, the outcome means that he is currently only 12 points behind Sergio Perez of Red Bull in the race for second place in the championship.
In contrast to Verstappen, Alonso started the race on hard tyres on Sunday in the hopes that the compound’s durability would allow him more tactical choices later in the race. Although he lost a little bit of performance in the first half of the grand prix, the plan was excellent because he would have benefited had the team taken advantage of the rainy conditions by switching to intermediate tires on Lap 54.
In defense of Aston Martin, the precipitation that hit the track was first confined to Portier, and it wasn’t certain whether it would abate or worsen.
Alonso commented over the team radio, “Very wet through [Turns] 7 and 8, definitely helpful for inters.” “But I don’t know, mate, the rest of the track would definitely be too dry.”
“For me, it was extremely obvious that the track on that lap we stopped was absolutely dry, aside from Turn 7 and 8, so how could I put on the inters,” Alonso continued after the competition. 99% of the track was fully dry.So I halted to get drys. The weather forecast was for a brief shower and a trace of rain, which is also what we experienced as a group.Additionally, we had plenty of room behind us to place the inter tires and dry tires as needed.
I’m not sure, maybe it was extremely secure.It dramatically changed within the minute and a half it took to repeat Turns 5, 6, 7 and 8. When I arrived at those turns, it was really wet. The outlap was on the dry tires. When we stopped, the lap was entirely dry.
Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack said in a statement immediately after the race that he wasn’t sure if the choice had lost the team the race, but he had explained his reasoning on the pit wall.
In such circumstances, when you don’t really know what’s going to happen, it’s obvious that you attempt to stay outside for as long as you can, he added. Since the track was quite hot, “we honestly did not expect so much rain,” so we believed it would only be a brief shower and dry quickly.
Then, ordinarily, we would say, “OK, we stay out one, two, or three more laps,” but since the tyres had already been worn down significantly and we could see the temperatures dropping, it was a bit risky.We said, “OK, let’s suit the mediums,” when the car pulled up with this information, but as soon as it drove away, I mean not long after, we noticed there was a lot of rain, so we had to turn around.
Verstappen making a critical error on his in-lap at Portier was one thing that Aston Martin could not have anticipated. Verstappen lost a lot of time as a result of running wide, sliding along the barrier, then continuing while on slippery tires. He may have still had a significant enough lead over Alonso if he hadn’t committed the error to make an intermediate pit stop a lap later and keep the lead.
“You know, you think it’s better you don’t do this as well when a world-class driver like Max goes out like that,” Krack added. At the end of the day, these are calls that are placed quickly when you might not have the same knowledge as everyone else.Your driver’s position on the track and in the garage will determine what happens. So, I believe that overall, we shouldn’t be too greedy. We should reflect on the past and consider our goals.