Dutch GP 2021 - Alpine F1 preview

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By Olivier Ferret

1 September 2021 - 17:24
Dutch GP 2021 - Alpine F1 preview

Marcin Budkowski

Formula 1 heads to Zandvoort for the first time since 1985 for this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix. Executive Director Marcin Budkowski offers his thoughts on the washed out Belgian Grand Prix and previews the seaside circuit of Zandvoort.

Having had time to digest and reflect on the event, what is the team’s thoughts on the Belgian Grand Prix?

It was a shame not to be able to hold the race, especially for the fans in attendance at the track. Huge credit has to be paid to them for their patience and keeping spirits high in the wet all afternoon, but it was just not possible to run in those conditions.

From the team’s side, we started the weekend well and showed competitive pace in the dry on Friday, however, our car seemed to struggle as soon as we put the Intermediate tyres on and we had a tricky qualifying that didn’t put us in the best position for the race.

Our qualifying result was neither a reflection of the potential of the car nor the drivers’ skills in the wet, and work is on-going at the factory to understand our pace deficit in the wet and more specifically on the Intermediates tyres. This is even more relevant as nowadays the Extreme Wet tyre only gets used when there is standing water causing aquaplaning, and more often than not, the session gets red flagged in such a case.

How exciting is it to try out a new circuit like Zandvoort?

It’s nice to visit a historical circuit like Zandvoort, where Formula 1 hasn’t raced for a number of years. Taking on a new circuit is always a challenge, especially one that has some banked corners with unusual trajectories, and Fernando and Esteban have done extensive preparation in the simulator with their engineers ahead of this weekend. The track proximity to the seaside means it’s windy and gusty, which will be an additional challenge for the drivers. Hopefully this weekend we can put on a good show for the fans!

Esteban Ocon

After the washout in Spa, Esteban Ocon is looking forward to taking on Zandvoort on the Dutch coast. It’s a circuit the Frenchman knows having raced there in DTM in 2016 as he aims to continue his points scoring run.

How frustrating was it to not race in Spa?

It was disappointing not to race at Spa at the weekend. Safety is the most important thing and with the rain it just wasn’t possible. During the laps under the Safety Car, visibility was really poor, so much so, you couldn’t even see the car in front. I’d like to again thank all the fans around the circuit who were very loyal to us drivers all afternoon and waited to see some action. Hopefully the weather is better this weekend and we can go racing properly this time! On our side, with the running we did, we showed some competitive pace in the dry on Friday. There’s always more to learn and we have things to further understand, which we’ll be putting into practice this weekend.

Having raced there before, what is Zandvoort like to drive?

It’s a really cool circuit and one I’ve enjoyed racing at before. I’ve raced there in DTM in 2016 and it’s a great track with a really nice flow to it. The corners come quite quickly and it’s a busy lap at the wheel. The two banked corners are very fun, so tackling them in a Formula 1 car is something I look forward to. Overtaking might be challenging, but who knows until we’ve given it a go. Our target remains the same. We want to maintain our points run in order to consolidate fifth in the championship.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso heads to Zandvoort and its 4.259km seaside circuit for his first ever Formula 1 race in the Netherlands. The Spaniard is fresh from a frustrating weekend in Belgium that saw little to no action on Sunday due to the constant rainfall around Spa-Francorchamps.

Spa-Francorchamps was tricky with rainy conditions throughout the weekend, what did you take away from it?

Well it was disappointing not to race on Sunday, but I think it would have been too dangerous given how wet it was. I think we looked quite strong in the dry conditions, so it was a shame that rain was forecast all weekend. We took lots of data from the Friday and Saturday that can help us later this season, but, in the end, it wasn’t the weekend any of us wanted. Let’s hope we can put on a proper show for the fans in Zandvoort.

You’ve never raced in Netherlands before in Formula 1, are you looking forward to it?

Zandvoort will be interesting for everyone with very few of us having raced on the circuit before. It’ll be a unique challenge and I’m sure the atmosphere will be good. We’re not sure how we will fare this weekend but racing on a new circuit is not something out of the ordinary in Formula 1, especially in these recent times. We’ve looked at a lot of simulation data and I was back at Enstone this week, so I feel as prepared as possible.

Do you have a part of the circuit you’re most excited about racing on?

I will have a better answer for this after Friday, but I would say the banking at the end of the lap will be fun. It’s not like any other corner in Formula 1. I have concerns that overtaking will be difficult in Zandvoort but let’s see after we’ve done some running. Ultimately, I think your starting grid position will be very important.

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