Alonso revels in 'unbelievable' return to F1 podium: I was waiting so long!

By Sports Desk November 21, 2021

Fernando Alonso was delighted to return to a Formula One podium for the first time in seven years as he finished third at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Alonso was a two-time champion with Renault, now Alpine, and a regular title contender in his time at Ferrari before he quit the series at the end of 2018 having struggled with McLaren.

The Spaniard twice won the 24 Hours of Le Mans while away from F1 but is back with Alpine this year.

Heading into Sunday's race at the Losail International Circuit, where he started from third following penalties for Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas, Alonso had registered 13 points finishes this season without reaching the podium.

Indeed, his last top-three finish had been in Budapest in 2014, but that wait came to an end with a little help from a virtual safety car.

Alonso struggled to stick with race winner Lewis Hamilton and championship leader Verstappen beyond the first few laps but clung on to third when Sergio Perez, who pitted twice, was slowed in the closing stages.

The Alpine man had been ailing at that point, having benefited from one of several tyre punctures when Valtteri Bottas fell from third and later retired.

"Unbelievable. Seven years but finally we got it," Alonso said of his 98th F1 podium. "We were close [in] a couple of races but not [close] enough. Sochi was the last possibility.

"Here today, honestly, I thought I could be leading after lap one. I thought with the red tyre I could have a go at Lewis, but I couldn't.

"Then Checo was very close at the end, but I'm so happy for the team. Also with Esteban [Ocon] P5, it's a good Sunday."

Alonso maintained his spotless record of having collected points at all 34 circuits at which he has raced in F1 following this first Qatar GP.

He added: "I'm enjoying it. F***, I was waiting so long for this, so I'm happy."

Related items

  • French Open: Tsitsipas through against "complete player" Kolar French Open: Tsitsipas through against "complete player" Kolar

    Stefanos Tsitsipas called Zdenek Kolar a "complete player", despite ultimately defeating his Czech opponent in the second round of the French Open.

    Tsitsipas was relatively untroubled in the first set, but was made to work for the win after that as he and Kolar exchanged one tie-break each before the number four seed finally secured victory with another tie-break in the fourth set, sealing it 6-3 7-6 (10-8) 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (9-7).

    Kolar is ranked 134th in the world but looked every bit a threat to Tsitsipas on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, hitting 57 winners and succeeding with 29 of 37 net points (78 per cent).

    Speaking at a news conference after his win, Tsitsipas explained the difficulties he experienced, saying: "He's someone I knew a little bit. It's never easy playing guys that don't really play on the ATP Tour. You don't really know what to expect. I guess they play more free.

    "It's always like this. They really have a nothing-to-lose mentality. It's a different mentality than what we have, I think, which sometimes can really be brutal on the court and create some good tennis.

    "He was really pushing a lot today, getting after every ball. His body was behind every ball. Running fast, reacting fast. Good net game. Complete player, I would say. Yeah, it wasn't easy out there to face him and come up with some good solutions."

    Tsitsipas - who hit 25 aces - displayed some of his oft-seen frustration as he struggled to stay on top of his opponent, and was asked if his hardest obstacle was Kolar or himself.

    "I guess both today," he said. "I had a lot of opportunities, break points, playing quite well, staying within the game. He was coming up with some really good ideas and I think dealt with all of the situations so maturely, not overexaggerating anything. He's an intelligent player, I would say.

    "Look, last year there were moments where it was about me and the way I deal with situations on the court, not focusing that much on who is on the other side. It's all about perspective. It's sometimes good to focus on what you are doing, but also if you're not feeling great, you have to see the other side too."

    Having rallied from two sets down to beat Lorenzo Musetti in the first round, and now being made to work hard by Kolar, Tsitsipas will now face Mikael Ymer after the Swede beat 29th seed Dan Evans on Thursday.

  • Pelicans star Zion Williamson cleared to return without any restrictions Pelicans star Zion Williamson cleared to return without any restrictions

    Zion Williamson has been cleared to return to play without any restrictions.

    The New Orleans Pelicans star did not play a single game this season due to a foot fracture as his team reached the playoffs through the play-in tournament, before losing 4-2 to the Phoenix Suns in the first round.

    Williamson has been troubled by fitness issues throughout his NBA career, and the former first overall pick returned to full team activities in late November, only to suffer further setbacks.

    However, the Pelicans confirmed on Thursday that the 21-year-old is finally able to return without restrictions, saying via a statement: "The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that recent imaging of Zion Williamson's right fifth metatarsal showed continued improvement.

    "Williamson has been cleared in his return to play progression without any restrictions."

    In the 2020-21 season, Williamson averaged 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds from 61 games, and scored more than 20 in each of his last 15 games before getting injured just over a year ago.

    Williamson is eligible for a five-year, $181million max rookie extension ahead of the 2022-23 season, and he will not think twice if that offer comes from the Pelicans, recently saying: "Of course, I couldn't sign it fast enough."

  • French Open: Swiatek not keeping track of outstanding 30-match winning run French Open: Swiatek not keeping track of outstanding 30-match winning run

    Only the understandable media attention is allowing Iga Swiatek to keep count of her incredible winning run that reached 30 matches on Thursday.

    The world number one sealed her place in the third round of the French Open after a dominant 6-0 6-2 win against Alison Riske.

    That victory made her just the fourth WTA Tour player this century to win 30 or more consecutive matches. She has also taken 46 of the past 47 sets she has played.

    Speaking at a news conference following her milestone win, Swiatek insisted she does not follow the numbers – although she has no need to while her streak remains the focus of journalists.

    "I know how many matches I have won in a row because you keep reminding me, basically," she said. "But I don't keep track.

    "I'm not like noting or something. I just try to come back to these matches to get experience from them. But that's the only reason why I come back to them."

    Swiatek was asked to explain what had inspired her imperious form, with her 39 match victories in 2022 already three more than she managed in the whole of 2021.

    "I think basically I changed some things, like I started being more aggressive and trying to be more proactive on court," she replied. "That's something that my coach really helped me to do.

    "But also, I think all the work we have been doing, even last season, it finally clicked somehow.

    "You know, last season it was a year for me where I really gained so much experience. This year I feel like I'm using it the right way. I have this experience already, and I can just move forward.

    "So I think it's the physical work I have been doing but also with my psychologist, I think it's the work of the whole team as well. I'm pretty glad that it clicks right now."

    The 20-year-old conceded her form will not last forever, but she is determined to enjoy it while it lasts.

    "I was saying from the beginning that for sure I'm going to reach a point where I'm going to lose a match, and it's pretty normal, you know," Swiatek said. "I have been losing matches in tennis for a long time.

    "For sure, the things we are doing right now are pretty extraordinary, but I know in tennis that only one person wins at the end. I will be okay with that.

    "For sure, it's not fun to lose, but I think it wouldn't be different than any other loss that I had in my career."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.