Emilia-Romagna GP 2021 - Alpine F1 preview
The team is feeling determined for a strong performance at the historic Imola circuit this weekend. And with upgrades planned for the A521, Executive Director Marcin Budkowski outlines the team’s ambitions for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix and beyond.
What is the verdict after Bahrain?
We left Bahrain feeling disappointed by not scoring points. The Bahrain race weekend confirmed some of the weaknesses of our package, which we’re working hard to improve and gain the few tenths of a second that we are currently missing to fight at the front of the midfield.
Both Esteban and Fernando did a good job over the race weekend, but suffered from adverse circumstances – Esteban in qualifying, Fernando in the race – so we’re aiming for a clean weekend to allow them to show their true potential.
The A521 is tackling a new circuit. How does the team approach Imola?
It will be interesting to see how our car performs on a different circuit, having only been to Bahrain for testing and the first race so far this season. It will also generate new data to help our development effort. As a team, we have happy memories from our podium here last season so it’s good to go back!
How is the team planning to develop the A521?
We have an aerodynamic upgrade package coming to the car for this Grand Prix. In addition, we have some test items to assess during Friday practice, which will help define further upgrades planned over the next few races.
What is required to do well in Imola?
Imola really is a legendary circuit for car racing and, in particular, for Formula 1. It’s a fast circuit with high power sensitivity and quick changes of direction, so the driver needs to have confidence in the car to attack the fast and flowing corner combinations.
Esteban Ocon heads to Imola after missing out on points in the season opener. The Frenchman is determined to return to the top 10 in this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as he looks to avenge last year’s result at the legendary Imola.
What were the main takeaways from the first race?
It wasn’t the start to the season we hoped for, but there’s positives to take, areas we know we can do better, and we go to Imola targeting an improved result. In Bahrain, starting in sixteenth just meant we had to catch up in the race. We know it was a bit of bad luck there but qualifying higher up on the grid will enable us to be in a better position to fight for points. I have a bit of unfinished business in Imola too after last year’s retirement. I want to go there and score points and I’m feeling very determined to do that.
How ready are you to take on Imola?
Imola is a classic racetrack. Returning there last season was nice as it feels so historic and old school with its deep racing roots. It’s a circuit I enjoy racing at. I won the 2014 European Formula 3 Championship there with a win and a podium, which was very special. Italy is also close to me having lived there for many years and I always look forward to racing there whether it’s in Monza, Mugello or Imola!
Where are the main challenges on a lap?
Last year, it was a lot of fun driving a modern Formula 1 car around Imola. The corner combinations there are so fast. Sector 1 is incredibly quick with little room for error. You need confidence in the car to attack the quick changes of direction. In Sector 2 there’s Acque Minerale, the famous, downhill up and down right. The angles and kerbs make it a great challenge and I can’t wait to attack the circuit right from the first session on Friday.
Following his eagerly anticipated return to Formula 1 in Bahrain two weeks ago, Fernando Alonso now heads back to a circuit he knows well having won there in 2005 en-route to his first world drivers’ championship.
How was it qualifying and racing again in Formula 1?
It was really enjoyable. I have missed the feeling and adrenaline that comes with qualifying in Formula 1, it’s like no other competition. We were very pleased to make it into Q3 on Saturday and I felt comfortable to push quite hard. The result in the race was obviously not as we expected, but we were very unlucky to retire the way we did and, of course, Esteban was unfortunate to start where he did. In saying all of this, we had some fun battles on the track, and I look forward to some more this weekend.
Imola is a place you know well, are you looking forward to racing there again this weekend?
I do like the Imola racetrack and I was glad to see it return to Formula 1 last year. It threw up an exciting race in 2020 and I think some of the changes to the circuit since I raced here over ten years ago has improved the racing. It’s also different to be in Europe so early in the season, we usually arrive a little later in the year when the continent is going through its summertime. I have some good memories here particularly in 2005 when we won the race and later took the championship that year.
What are your targets for this weekend?
I think we have to fight to score our first points of the season on Sunday. Let’s hope all our bad luck for the season was used up in Bahrain! We’re still learning lots about the car and I’m expecting that the setup here and, of course, the weather will be very different to what we experienced in Bahrain. It should be pretty close and a few tenths of a second could make up a number of positions.
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