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Why Alonso's Baku drive was one of the greatest of all time

Why Alonso's Baku drive was one of the greatest of all time

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Why Alonso's Baku drive was one of the greatest of all time

Why Alonso's Baku drive was one of the greatest of all time

Fernando Alonso's drive to seventh place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was one of the greatest performances in Formula 1 history, according to McLaren sporting director Eric Boullier. The two-time world champion kept up his streak of points-scoring in 2018, despite suffering huge damage to his car on the first lap in Baku.

Contact with Sergey Sirotkin and Nico Hulkenberg left Alonso with both right-hand tyres burst and needing to navigate the vast majority of F1's second-longest circuit on two wheels.

Doing so left the veteran's McLaren in such a state that he had initially assumed he would have to retire. However, with four new tyres and a front wing fitted, he went on to secure a seventh-placed finish, maintaining his team's place in fourth in the constructors' standings.

A report by BBC Sport detailed the incredible levels of damage sustained by Alonso's car as it scraped along the circuit, including massive holes in the floor - a crucial are of aerodynamic gain for cars.

Despite the damage, Alonso went from 17th to the brink of the top 10 - beyond team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne in the process - in just 10 laps and Boullier believes his performance deserves extra attention.

"When you see the condition of the car, definitely it is one of the best [performances]," Boullier said of Alonso's third seventh-place finish on the spin.

"He did some other amazing things - some times when you feel he is in another world.

"The consistency he had with the tyres and tyre degradation and managing the tyres, especially with the safety car and everything, and he did it.

"Then, at the final safety car restart, we said: 'Oh my god, with the car he has, everyone is going to pass him.' But no."

Of the incident which caused so much of the damage, Boullier added: "The front tyre deflated straight away after turn three and then it takes some time before you lose the tyre from the rim. The rear right tyre deflated I think around turn 15.

"You can see [from the television footage] that after entering the pit lane, the car is not driveable, and actually he hit the wall on the right-hand side.

"At that stage, he told us after, he did not know how to bring the car to the pit. He didn't know if the car would steer. He just tried to go straight on the fast lane and he thought he would leave it there and we would take it out [of the race].

"At the last minute, he turned and the car steered into the pit-stop bay. We made a joke with him and said it was the best positioning of the weekend.

"He said: 'Let's change the tyres and front wing and go.' From the pit wall, I saw these flames all around the floor. The car was on fire.

"He has this facility to switch his driving style always to suit the car balance. He is one of the very rare ones. Depending on the balance, whether you have front [brake] locking, rear locking, straight away he adjusts his driving to not hurt the tyres. In that case, it helped him a lot.

"I compare him sometimes to a shark when it smells blood in the sea. Then it starts to chase. Fernando is the same. In that mode, he decided: 'Change the tyres, let's go back racing, just check the balance and tell me what I need to do if I need to change something.'

"All weekend, actually, he was telling us: 'Nothing is important other than finishing the race. It is going to be chaos. We need to go through the chaos and finish the race and we will be in the points.'

"I think that's why he came back saying: 'Change the tyres, change the front wing, don't worry, I am going to drive it like it is.'"

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