Alpine’s strong start to the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend leaves Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon optimistic it will have a more competitive run.
In low-grip conditions, Alpine hit the ground running and ended FP2 with Alonso fifth and Ocon sixth, catching the eye of McLaren’s Lando Norris. Alonso attributes the good positions to the team hitting the sweet spot with the car from a setup point of view from the first session, and says he was mainly focusing on getting comfortable at a venue he didn’t race at last year.
“It was good — I think we were happy with the car today,” Alonso said. “Obviously it’s only Friday but we were comfortable from lap one and we didn’t touch the setup much because everything felt reasonably OK. We tried to do some laps just for me to get used to the track and to know a little bit more about the tires.
“The asphalt seems a little bit different compared to last year so we had to review a little bit of the data we had from the tires.”
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Despite the promise of further progress, Alonso says he isn’t expecting Alpine to leap to the front of the midfield this weekend.
“No, I think we have to wait and see tomorrow. The positions I think will not be too different compared to Imola or Bahrain. I don’t think that there is any big changes in the order, it’s just a different Friday — maybe a different approach compared to other teams. But let’s see, fingers crossed that we can keep this pace tomorrow.”
Ocon was a little more optimistic, believing Alpine is in with a chance of leading the midfield even if he too wants to see how the competitive order shapes up on Saturday.
“I think it will be close tomorrow,” Ocon said. “It will be a tough battle with everybody, looking at how close the times are. I think this track is still a challenge for everybody. The grip has improved compared to last year but it’s still quite tricky out there — it’s moving quite a lot — so it will be a fight as I said. It was good enough for today but tomorrow will be tight.
“Tomorrow when we talk again if we are there then I will be very happy, but it’s only Friday. For sure we are working towards improving the car and understanding and extracting the maximum out of the platform. We are finding little bits here and there constantly, which is very positive, but we need to do that tomorrow.
“For sure it leaves us optimistic. Fernando is very quick as well, so there are all the reasons why we can be very happy about today and we are in a good position to fight tomorrow.”