Fernando Alonso was the hero of Formula 1’s first sprint race as he converted 11th on the grid to fifth on lap one and an eventual seventh place at Silverstone.
But while the string of moves he pulled off to overtake six cars through the opening corners earned plaudits, there were eyebrows raised at his subsequent defensive moves as he tried to keep his soft-shod Alpine ahead of faster cars on more durable tyres.
McLaren radioed Lando Norris to let him know that it had reported Alonso’s “weaving” to FIA race director Michael Masi, although no action was taken.
“I was surprised,” Alonso said when asked about the radio complaint.
“I never moved under braking. I was moving at the beginning of the straight.
“But I don’t care. I’ve been on the other side for nine races.
“It’s going to be the same for the remainder of the year – I will be on the dark side this time.”
Alonso’s ‘dark side’ comment appears to have been a reference to his fury at rivals going over track limits to overtake him during the Austrian Grand Prix, when he had suggested over the radio there were “no rules in this race” with particular reference to how Daniel Ricciardo had passed him at the first corner.
As well as implying his decision to weave to protect against rivals getting in his tow was related to the lack of penalties issued in Austria, Alonso said he had planned to go off-track himself at Copse on the opening lap of the sprint to complete his pass on Norris.
In the event, he was able to go around the outside of the McLaren at the fast right-hander without exceeding track limits.
“I’ve been overtaken in all the first laps outside the track in Austria and in Paul Ricard so today I thought I will overtake outside of Turn 9 out of the circuit, but it was not needed,” Alonso told Sky.
“But in case Lando was on the inside, I will keep flat outside the circuit and overtake.”
Norris himself had no complaints about the weaving element, pointing out that Alonso had been moving early on the straights to try to break the slipstream rather than squeezing him under braking, while Norris’s McLaren team-mate Ricciardo said Alonso’s his “racecraft this year has probably been the best on the grid, at least at times” after his own fight with the 2005/06 world champion.
“There was obviously the weaving, but when he was doing it, I was never close enough for it to be dangerous,” Norris told Sky.
“So, I don’t think he did anything wrong. Some people said he did, but I don’t think he did. He was fine.
“He just knows the limits of what he can do really, so it’s good. It makes it more exciting for him, for me and for everyone watching so it was a good battle.”
While the two McLaren drivers both got past Alonso to claim fifth and sixth, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel couldn’t overtake his sometime title rival for seventh.
And although Vettel said Alonso “did well to defend” and was “OK” overall, he did feel some of the moves were made too late.
“He shouldn’t do that so late, because I wasn’t going to really go there, so it was a bit unnecessary,” said Vettel.
Asked by The Race if he meant Alonso had been moving around under braking, Vettel replied: “Yeah. So it was a bit confusing.”