Italian GP 2021 - Alpine F1 preview
Monza is renowned for its out and out speed and demanding circuit layout. After double points in Zandvoort, the team is aiming to continue its points run at the legendary circuit, as Executive Director Marcin Budkowski explains.
How much is the team looking forward to the third stint of the latest triple header?
Any triple header is challenging, preparing for three different circuits and racing every weekend, but our good result in Zandvoort and the euphoric Dutch atmosphere made last weekend very enjoyable. Monza brings a different challenge as it’s very high-speed, low downforce and with heavy braking zones after the long straights. As a team, we’ve scored points in all the races this year except the first one, so we aim to extend that run through to this race.
What are the team’s thoughts on the latest Formula 1 Sprint Qualifying?
We’re also looking forward to the second Sprint Qualifying event of the year after the first trial of the format in Silverstone. We played a huge part in the success of the Sprint in Silverstone with both drivers making moves throughout that race. After the electric crowd in Zandvoort, we’re excited to go racing in front of the passionate Italian fans, albeit in a reduced capacity. Monza is always unique for its atmosphere and it will be special to experience that once again.
How might Qualifying play out on Friday?
While in Zandvoort drivers were trying to find a gap in the traffic to have a lap in clean air, in Monza it will be the opposite as there is lap time to gain from getting a tow from the car in front. The aim is not to be first on track and we’ve seen some games played out over the years there and this year’s Friday night session will be no different.
Italy is a special place for Esteban Ocon. After making it four consecutive points scoring finishes in Zandvoort, he heads to Monza aiming to make it five in a row as Formula 1 prepares for its second Sprint Qualifying.
What do you like about the Autodromo Nazionale Monza?
Monza is a great circuit. As a team, we go there feeling quite confident and aiming to be competitive. Our low downforce package has shown to be quite strong so hopefully we can start quickly on Friday and have a solid baseline for us to refine. The main challenges of Monza are straight line speed and heavy braking. Another challenge will be the Sprint Qualifying. It’s important we qualify well on Friday to give ourselves a chance in both the races. I enjoyed the format in Silverstone and hopefully this one will be just as good.
How close is Italy to you?
I always enjoy going to Italy. I’ve spent a lot of time there in my life since I lived in the country during my Formula 3 career with PREMA Racing and a lot of my karting was there as a kid. I speak Italian, I love Italian food, so I’m probably almost half Italian! In terms of my memories of Monza, I have some good ones. In 2017, I started the race from third and in 2018, I qualified and finished in sixth. Last year, as a team, we were competitive at Monza in an action-packed race. We probably deserved a little more than the end result, but the pace was positive, and the aim is to take that into this year.
What are your thoughts on last week’s race at Zandvoort?
It’s the final race of a busy triple header. I really enjoyed Zandvoort last week. The atmosphere was incredible all weekend and that was cool to experience. We were competitive and delivered an important team result. I was disappointed to lose a place so late on, but we continued our points run and the target is to keep that going. Bring on Monza!
Fernando Alonso returns to the temple of speed for his eighteenth appearance at Monza for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix. A two-time race winner in Monza, Fernando will look to build on his sixth-place finish at last weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix.
You’ve won in Monza twice before, what does it take to win a race there?
I enjoy racing in Monza. It’s a very fast and flowing circuit and when you find the right set-up and rhythm it can be a very enjoyable lap. To win there requires a car that has good straight-line speed due to the high-speed nature of the circuit. It’s a very low downforce circuit and our only real comparison so far this year is Belgium when it was dry. The race itself usually feels like it’s over very quickly and with the amazing atmosphere you have to enjoy every minute of it. It’s also a place where overtaking is possible, so it’ll make Saturday and Sunday even more exciting with the Sprint Qualifying format.
You pulled off some impressive overtaking moves during the Dutch Grand Prix, what did you take away from the weekend?
Overall, I was pleased with how it went. We had a solid weekend and scored double points for the team. There were a few moments at the start of the race, and we were quite lucky not to have any serious damage after being hit by a number of cars. It’s the risks you take when the circuit is so tight and fast. The rest of the race was relatively standard for us and our execution was good. We were able to catch Carlos Sainz at the end thanks to the tyre performance. It was a very satisfying overtake as earlier in the race I didn’t think we had the pace to catch the Ferraris. I enjoyed racing at Zandvoort with all of the Dutch fans adding to an amazing atmosphere.
We’ve had three quite traditional circuits in a row, do you prefer racing on these tracks?
Racing in places like Spa, Zandvoort and Monza is good for Formula 1 as these are places with lots of history and passion for the sport. Monza in particular is a place where you can really feel the history, it’s almost alive in a way. You enjoy these types of races for different reasons. I think it’s important that the sport always stays in places like this, but it’s also good we try new venues and races. I think we have a good mix of new and old on the calendar currently.
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