Fernando Alonso says Daniel Ricciardo has been “unbelievable” this season after the pair finished less than 0.1s apart in the German Grand Prix.
After Alonso had made his final pit stop and dropped behind Ricciardo, the pair engaged in a close battle with the Ferrari struggling to pass despite being on fresh supersofts. On a number of occasions, Alonso overtook the Red Bull only to find Ricciardo retaking the position a few corners later until he eventually made the move stick. After the two crossed the line almost side-by-side, Alonso stated his surprise at just how good Ricciardo has been this season.
“Daniel is a surprise since Australia,” Alonso said. “I think he's doing unbelievable. I think he's 7-3 in races in the first ten races with Sebastian [Vettel] so it's something that probably not one of us expected. He is doing a very good job, he's driving fantastically and today he was battling very smart.
“He was always taking the slipstream of me after I passed him and then braking very late, attacking very late and never missed the corner so he was very, very smart. Very respectful of the rules etc. so it was a great fight.”
And Alonso felt Ferrari had got the best result possible out of Sunday's race thanks to its strategy.
“We had the benefit at the start to pass two cars – [Kevin] Magnussen and Felipe [Massa] – that had the incident there, and then we had more or less the pace to open up the gap to the Force Indias and follow the first three cars. We planned more or less to do two stops at the beginning but in the middle of the race I was asking how the tyres were for everyone else because I really felt that we would struggle a lot if we go for two.
“So we switched to three and we probably surprised Red Bull a little bit at that time. We overtook them in the pits and then in the end we didn't have the pace to fight with Sebastian but we had the pace to fight with Daniel. I had very fresh tyres so the battle was on my side because I had the car advantage, so it took a couple of laps because I was also saving a little bit of fuel behind him.
“I think fifth place is absolutely the maximum today. I am very pleased and very happy. Probably Austria was the best race so far in the season for me, now probably it's this one because it was quite complex to manage the start, the fuel, the tyres, the change of strategy, the battles… So it was a very complex race to understand and to execute and I'm happy.”