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The Art of the Overtake: Decoding Fernando Alonso’s stunning Last-lap pass on Sergio Perez at Brazil

Written by Vyas Ponnuri

This new series, ‘The Art of the Overtake’, attempts to decode some iconic overtakes across motorsport, giving you an overview of the weekend, and an insight into the moments leading up to the overtake. The series also looks at why the overtake is famous, and how people reacted to the overtake. So, brace yourselves in for this series, taking a trip down the halls of fame, reliving some truly iconic motorsport moments!

The next instalment of our series focuses on another final lap overtake — once again involving Red Bull racer Sergio Perez, but this time it involved another talisman of the sport — Fernando Alonso. The Aston Martin veteran swept past the ever-conquering Red Bull on the last lap, and held on to the podium position by a mere 0.053 seconds, his eighth of the year. 

It tasted even sweeter, having come after a race-long tussle against a driver at the wheel of one of the greatest machines ever built in motorsport. The last-lap overtake received plenty of acclaim from all corners of the sport, and even won the prestigious FIA Action of the Year Award. 

An overview of the race weekend

The Brazilian Grand Prix weekend proved to be yet another typical Interlagos thriller, with an action-packed sprint race on Saturday preceding the showpiece event on Sunday. Qualifying for the race on Friday witnessed threatening storm clouds build up around the track, and as the top ten shootout began, the intensity of the clouds was well and truly visible. 

In ominous conditions, with Alonso himself quipping “It’s Night” on the radio, a reflection of the dark rain clouds circling the track. It was now one-lap qualifying, as rain was expected in the next few minutes. It was a case of, 'Act now, or repent at your leisure.”

Max Verstappen was the quickest to act, and was rewarded with yet another pole position — his eleventh of 2023, putting him in prime position to get his 17th win of the season. Behind him, Aston Martin surprised the paddock with a resurgence, ending the session third and fourth on the grid, Alonso behind his teammate Lance Stroll this time. 

Perez miscalculated big time, and a yellow flag on his flying lap restricted the Mexican to ninth on the grid for the main race. He would have to make some overtakes on Sunday, to avoid yet another poor result, and avenge a DNF in the previous round at Mexico. 

Saturday’s sprint race saw both Aston Martin cars lower down the grid, a marked difference from Friday’s qualifying session. Alonso was clattered into by old teammate Esteban Ocon in sprint qualifying, the resultant damage leaving him only 15th on the grid, while Perez qualified third, only behind sprint pole-sitter Norris, and teammate Verstappen. 

Perez had a slow start to the sprint, but recovered strongly, overtaking both Mercedes cars on his way to finish third, while Alonso recovered to tenth by the flag, winning out in a fierce battle with Ocon’s teammate Pierre Gasly, as the duo displayed excellent wheel-to-wheel combat for two full sectors, during the race. 

However, with the grid order set on Friday being the one used for Sunday, Perez would have his task cut out from ninth on the grid. 

After a chaotic race start — enough to induce a red flag, the second race start proved to be a lot more straightforward. Alonso made his way up to third, with a bold move on his good friend Lewis Hamilton into turn four, leaving the Mercedes behind. 

Perez too made his way up into fourth, overtaking Hamilton on lap 18, and set his sights on the Spaniard ahead, who was five seconds up the road. 

After the first round of pit stops, Perez steadily closed down the gap to Alonso, to just under two seconds, as he set his sights on the green Aston Martin ahead. The gap stabilised, and as the duo went on to soft rubber in the second half of the race, the chase was once again on. 

The Moments Leading up to the Overtake

Only a lap before the famous overtake, Perez slowly crept into DRS range of his rival, and on the penultimate lap, sat in prime position to take the podium spot away from his Spanish-speaking rival. 

Only four tenths separated the duo going onto the main straight, and this was soon erased, as the Mexican eased past Alonso into turn one, and withstood an attempt from the Aston Martin racer to pass into turn four. 

At this point, it looked to be heading towards a double Red Bull podium, knowing the speed of the Red Bull, and the car’s capabilities allowing the driver to pull out of DRS range, leaving him less vulnerable to being overtaken. 

But little did Perez expect the wily Spaniard, Alonso, to still be in his DRS range going into the final lap, with a podium position still to be sorted out…..

The Overtake

Alonso still had enough left in store for a comeback at the all-conquering RB19 ahead, and found himself in DRS range, as the drivers raced onto the final lap of the race. 

The gap narrowed as they sped across the start/finish line, and Perez, worried about an overtake from the charging Aston Martin, moved into a defensive racing line into turn one. This would put him onto the less-grippy line, and leave him with a tighter racing line into turn two, affecting his entry onto the Reta Oposta, the back straight on the racetrack. 

Alonso seized the opportunity, lurking in the Red Bull’s mirrors, and with another helping of DRS, forced his rival into a defensive line yet again, selling him the dummy, before swooping onto the racing line, and ahead of his rival. 

In a heart-stopping manoeuvre, the Spaniard darted back to the inside, and fended off Perez into turn four, keeping the position. 

The middle sector wouldn’t favour overtaking, but the speed run to the finish line was Perez’s last chance to snatch back the position he lost. However, despite being in DRS range of the Aston Martin ahead, and getting a long-range tow, he would just miss out on a podium position, by a hair’s breadth, with only 0.053 seconds separating the pair across the line. 

And thus, Alonso used his bag of tricks to snatch an unlikely podium, while Perez was dejected, left to rue a missed opportunity once again. 

What made this overtake Special

The timing of the overtake, coupled with the drivers in question, and clever car placement make this overtake one to remember. 

Last-lap passes and photo finishes are usually a sight for fans to revel in, and cheer about for a long time to come. This battle had both, and left fans on the edge of their seats in the final two tours, giving them a memorable moment to savour and cherish. 

Secondly, it was a rare sight of a driver passing the all-conquering Red Bull, who had been the quickest car in a straight line all year. Their triple DRS had proven more than just effective, and allowed their drivers to ease past their rivals on the straights, and pull away into the distance. 

Seeing the ever-efficient RB19 overtaken on a straight, and beaten by their rivals for a change, was a rare sight in a season of utter dominance for the Milton Keynes outfit, who had won all but one race up until that point. 

It took a mastermind, a wise figure of Alonso’s stature to pass a Red Bull on the straights. Having kept his tyres in shape, the Spaniard closed up, and loomed in the mirrors, as his menacing Aston Martin forced Perez to defend into a corner, when he wasn’t required to. 

This move by Alonso put Perez onto a tighter line, and as was the case all weekend, the RB19 hadn’t proved as dominant along the back straight, and Perez’s defensive line had opened up an opportunity for Alonso to make a move. 

Even still, it wasn’t going to be an easy move. The Red Bull was still one of the quickest in a straight line, as had been evidenced all season, and even earlier in the race, when Lando Norris couldn’t pass pole-sitter Verstappen, despite having DRS into turn four. 

More so, the Mercedes engine wasn’t the quickest in a straight line, the works team a sitting duck along Interlagos’ winding main straight all weekend. It was down to car placement, and would require something special to get past the Red Bull. 

And here is where Alonso’s wisdom comes to the fore. Channelling nearly two decades of experience, the Spaniard swiftly darted to the left, forcing Perez into a defence, before once again jumping onto the favourable racing line, making his way past the speedy Red Bull, albeit with the aid of DRS. 

Finally, Alonso displayed strong spatial awareness too, immediately moving to the inside line to prevent Perez from passing him into the corner, braking late, thereby keeping the Red Bull at bay, and taking his place on the podium. 

It was a sensational move from a driver, one who displayed his street smarts, and banked on years of experience to do the unthinkable. A worthy winner of the FIA’s Action of the Year accolade. 

What they said — Reactions to the Overtake

"For the last 30 laps, it felt like I had pressure from Sergio [Pérez]. But when he passed me two laps from the end, I thought the chance of a podium finish was no longer possible. Then he braked a bit late into Turn One on the final lap, and I said to myself I would go for it into Turn Four.”

"This is a phenomenal result for the whole team. We'd been struggling a little in recent races – especially the last two events – so this podium is for everyone at the track and everyone back at Silverstone.

"It shows that we will always keep fighting until the very last lap, the last corner." - Fernando Alonso, podium finisher at Interlagos

“I have to say well done to Fernando because it was a great fight and really fair racing. Between us, whoever got the podium, it was well deserved, and he got it.

“I had the opportunity and went for it but he was really fast on the straights and I don’t think I could have done anything differently in the final few laps.” - Sergio Perez appreciating Alonso for the battle and the overtake. 


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