FORMULA 1

Fernando Alonso back on F1 podium after seven years

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was back on the podium at the Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday after a third-placed finish with Alpine.

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

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 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 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 Pérez, 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.

Alonso: "I thought with the red tyre I could have a go at Lewis"

"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."