Portugal GP 2021 - Alpine F1 preview
The team is ready to take on the Algarve International Circuit for this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix. After scoring double points last time out, Racing Director Davide Brivio looks ahead to Portimão and discusses the team’s plan of action.
How does the team reflect on Imola?
It was a challenging weekend, especially the race with the changing weather conditions just before the start. It was the same for everyone with the strategy suddenly changing and the entire team having to adapt. We were happy to score points, even if we would always like to score more. Esteban did a good job in getting the car into Q3, which was important for him after missing out in Bahrain. For Fernando, he missed something in qualifying, but he is working very hard on his Formula 1 return. It was good to go through many different situations in the race with the wet conditions, dry conditions, safety cars and the red flag restart. We can take benefits from this and what we learnt during the weekend.
Did the upgrades to the A521 work as expected?
The upgrades we brought to Imola on the car worked as we projected. They are important, intermediate steps. We’ll continue developing and try to take the benefit from the next few races on this.
What is Portimão like as a circuit from your perspective?
I think it’s quite a unique circuit and there’s a reason why everyone calls it a rollercoaster! It’s quite up and down throughout, which makes it very special. The weather is likely to be different to what we had there last October, so that’s something we’ll keep an eye on. The track surface might have some improvements with the higher air temperature and better, overall grip levels, and that will be interesting to find out. It’s a new circuit for Fernando to learn, while for Esteban, he’ll aim to carry on his experience from last year. We’re looking at trying to improve our performance from Imola and also improve our performance from last year at this track.
How much are you looking forward to seeing Formula 1 cars there?
Normally all drivers like this type of track. There aren’t many places which are so up and down and also fast. It’s enjoyable for people watching too, so hopefully it’s a good show. The first two races this season have been exciting for different reasons and, this layout can offer another interesting race. As a team, we have to learn from Imola and be ready to take the opportunities when they come.
Esteban Ocon opened his 2021 points account in Imola after finishing ninth place in a topsy-turvy Grand Prix. The Frenchman is looking forward to taking on the rollercoaster-esque Algarve International Circuit this weekend in Portimão, aiming for more points.
How pleased were you to score your first points of the season last time out?
It was nice to score our first points of the season and also our first points in Alpine colours. The race itself was not straightforward with the changing conditions and difficult on-track decisions we had to make both before and during the race. I think we learnt a lot and we can certainly put all of that knowledge into future races. The car felt good, the upgrades we brought worked well and now it’s important we push on and make further progress. Clearly the midfield is very tight and there will be opportunities, which we must take.
What is the Algarve International Circuit like to drive?
I’d say Portimão is one of the most enjoyable circuits to drive. It flows really well and has some really fun corner combinations. Last year, when we were there for the first time, a lot of people compared it to a rollercoaster because of all the elevation changes and quick turns we make. I was very happy when Portugal was announced on the calendar. The venue is fantastic in the Algarve, the weather should be warm, so I’m looking forward to it.
What do you remember from last year’s race and what knowledge from that experience can you put into this weekend?
We had an interesting race there last year in very challenging conditions with quite low grip levels. I remember the start was crazy with some rain just as the lights went out. It’ll be interesting this weekend. We have the harder compound of tyres again like last year and we’ll be giving it our all to have both cars in the points.
Fernando Alonso heads to Portimão on the back of scoring his first point of the 2021 season in Imola. Despite 316 race entries in Formula 1, the two-time world champion is set to race for the first time at the impressive, undulating circuit, tucked away in the picturesque port city in the Algarve.
You came away from a chaotic Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with your first championship point of the season, how do you feel following the weekend?
It was a very tough weekend for everyone. It was like doing three races in one, with the wet and dry conditions as well as the red flag. I learnt a lot from the weekend and especially after such a limited amount of testing in pre-season and only 32 laps in Bahrain during race conditions. But Formula 1 races come thick and fast, and each weekend I learn more and adapt better to the car. There is always a period of adaptation in any new team or car, but I am working hard to be back to 100%.
What’s your evaluation of the upgrades brought to the A521 last week?
Looking back at the weekend we were obviously happy to score our first points of the season, and the upgrades we brought to the car were positive and worked well. I felt happier with the overall feel of the car and I think there is more potential there for us to improve. The factories are working hard, and it was good to see this paying off. We’ll take this positivity forward into Portugal and hopefully we can show further progression there.
This weekend will be your first ever race in Portugal in Formula 1, are you looking forward to it?
It will be a totally different challenge this weekend in Portimão compared to Bahrain and Imola. The circuit is very fun to drive and I think in these modern Formula 1 cars it will be very exciting, especially with the huge elevation changes. I’ve only tested here before in very wet conditions, so it will be a bit of a learning curve to begin with, but I love new challenges. We want to score more points this weekend.