There’s a perception among some motorsport observers that winning races from a reversed-grid is ‘easy’. The news on Sunday morning that Giuliano Alesi had done just that for the fourth time in his GP3 Series career might have led to a shrug of the shoulders from some, but this victory was far from easy, such were the number of potential hurdles sent in his direction.
Firstly, there was the weather. Rain on Saturday night and again on Sunday morning meant a damp track. Hardly the straightforward scenario you might want when presented with a place on the front row.
The vast majority ended up starting on Pirelli’s Cinturato rain tyres, although it wasn’t an immediately obvious call, as Alesi explains: “We went out to the grid on the slicks, but it was super difficult to drive. I was sliding everywhere, it was hard to brake and take the corners. So there was no other option but to start on wet tyres.”
With that decision made, Alesi then had the ideal start, using the grip from his tyres to move from second to first off the line. In his mirrors though, his compatriot Anthoine Hubert – strong enough to finish second in the first race – had carved his way through to the same position already. This was not going to be an easy win.
From there, one can imagine Alesi would hope for a straightforward race that ran from lights to flag without incident. That’s not what he got.
For any race leader, the sight of the letters ‘SC’ is more often than not unwelcome, eliminating their hard-earned advantage and setting up the high-pressure situation of a restart. In a 16-lap race, Alesi faced that scenario not once, not twice, but three times.
Each time, his tyre temperatures would have dropped – a natural consequence of the reduced speed of the safety car train, with less energy being put through them. And each time, he had a proven frontrunner on his gearbox, ready to pounce.
The third and final restart came with just one lap to go, but Alesi handled it perfectly, not just keeping the lead but actually setting the fastest lap of the race as he took the chequered flag.
As reversed-grid race wins go, this one was certainly hard-earned.