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Motorsport | Formula 1

Fernando Alonso © Gallo Images

Alonso cheers while others curse



Fernando Alonso and the army of Spanish fans cheering on his home grand prix victory owed Formula One tyre supplier Pirelli a debt of gratitude on Sunday even as others cursed the manufacturer.

"Alonso wouldn't have won with last year's tyres today because he had a puncture and it would have deflated," Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery told reporters at the Circuit de Catalunya as he fended off criticism of the quick-wearing product.

"If he'd had that type of debris into his tyre last year, it would have deflated."

Pirelli have strengthened this year's tyres with a high tensile steel belt beneath the tread, a change which means the tread strips away from the tyre which nonetheless remains inflated.

Critics say the tyres are having too much influence on the race strategy, necessitating multiple pit stops and putting a premium on managing wear and tear rather than outright speed.

Alonso was able to make the fourth and final stop without a problem and went on to celebrate his second win in five races that moved him into third place in the championship.

Team principal Stefano Domenicali said their data had showed a slow puncture on the rear left but the issue had not caused any major concern.

The Spaniard, now 17 points adrift of Red Bull's leader and triple champion Sebastian Vettel, had to make four pitstops in a race where three was the exception and one driver - Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg - made six visits to the pitlane.

Over the 66 laps, there were 77 pitstops and two drive-through penalties in total.

Hembery said four pitstops a driver was too many and Pirelli would look at the tyre compounds to try and ensure drivers had to do no more than three in a race.

"We aim for two to three, it was too aggressive today and we want to get back to what our plan was. We only had four once in the past and that was in Turkey in 2011," said the Pirelli man.

"I know some of you would like us to do a one stop, where the tyres aren't a factor, and you can go back to processional racing," he added, saying that champions Red Bull would then be the big beneficiaries.

The victory for Alonso, who also won in China last month, was a big relief after a mixed start of the season with a retirement in Malaysia and then a problem with DRS rear wing system in Bahrain.

He had arrived on home soil 30 points adrift of Vettel and needing to make a decisive move to ensure his rival did not surge further ahead.

The Spaniard surged from fifth on the grid to third through the third corner, passing Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton and Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, and was leading by lap 13 while Vettel had trouble managing his tyres.

Hamilton, who started on the front row, ended up 12th.

"It's very special winning at home. It doesn't matter how many times you can do it, how many you repeat it, it's always like starting from zero and you have again very emotional last laps," said Alonso, a double champion who won at Barcelona with Renault in 2006 and in Valencia last year.

"We knew we had the pace on the long runs and we wanted to have some clear air to exploit this potential in the car. We did it. Everything worked perfectly. I'm happy for the team, for the fans and hopefully this is not a one-off," he added.

That said, there was no question about the ultimate priority.

"I'd just be happy if I finish second in all the races and I win more championships," the winner of 32 grands prix replied when asked whether he could ultimately match the tallies of Ayrton Senna (41 victories), Alain Prost (51) and Michael Schumacher (91).

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