Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso were the highlights of the 2023 Brazilian GP, but there are unseen elements of their titanic duel.
Just 0.052 separated Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez at the Brazilian GP. The Spanish driver executed a perfect defence to keep his Red Bull adversary at bay before pulling off an audacious counter-attack to reclaim 3rd place at the final lap.
Such duels are often decided by fine margins, with both drivers at a stalemate for almost 20 laps. Despite a faster car and DRS at his disposal, Perez couldn’t find his way to earning a 9th podium in 2023.
This wasn’t for a lack of trying, though. Alongside a series of wheel-to-wheel encounters, the 33-year-old received several instructions from the pit wall to maximise his chances.
Throughout his defence, Alonso strategically placed his car in all the right places. As a result, the Double World Champion managed to mitigate Perez’s advantage – both in terms of raw performance and in straight-line speed.
Red Bull coach Perez
After watching multiple failed attempts, Red Bull began coaching Perez in his attack.
Here are some of the key messages between Hugh Bird (Perez’s race engineer) and the 6-time race winner:
Bird: “Try a bit wider at the apex, Turn 12. Wait for traction, get that exit.
Bird: “Follow Fernando’s line, Turn 10 and Turn 12.
Perez: “No. If I follow his line, I get into the dirty air.”
Bird: “Okay, well focus on the exit of 12. Give up a bit on the entry, focus on the exit.”
Man and machine
These messages provide invaluable insight into the analysis teams carry out in real time. In a sport where fine details make the difference, Red Bull tried to tip the odds in Checo’s favour.
Their attempts were almost successful, with Perez managing an overtake on lap 71 – only to lose out the next lap. Still, such team radio exchanges are a unique aspect of the battle of information and technology between teams.
Drivers make the difference, of course, but not without the support from the team.
In the end, Red Bull could only join the F1 world in saluting the brilliance of Fernando Alonso. At 200 mph, these athletes are still expected to take onboard feedback and advice from the pit-wall.
Over the last three years, Alonso has shown an excellent capacity to multi-task whilst competing. An example from earlier 2023 is the Miami GP, where the Spaniard spotted teammate Lance Stroll overtaking via one of the circuit’s TV screens.
During his second stint at Interlagos, he reassured Aston Martin that he was managing the gap to Sergio Perez. Benefiting from a later first stop, Alonso managed to create a significant buffer on his fresher medium tyres.
When the dust settled, the significance of this phase of the race – which the Spaniard choreographed with the team – became apparent.