Russian GP 2021 - Alpine F1 preview

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By Olivier Ferret

22 September 2021 - 08:09
Russian GP 2021 - Alpine F1 preview

Marcin Budkowski

The team made it thirteen consecutive races in the points last time out in Monza. The fight for fifth in the Constructors’ Championship continues in Sochi as Executive Director Marcin Budkowski explains the team’s approach for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

After the recent triple header, how much is the team looking forward to Sochi?

We’re going to Sochi on the back of a busy European triple header across Belgium, The Netherlands and Italy. We believe Sochi is a circuit that should allow us to return to a better level of competitiveness than Monza, which we knew wasn’t a circuit suited to our car’s characteristics. That said, we battled well in the Sprint and the main Race in Italy to recover from a disappointing qualifying session and put both cars in the points. It means we’ve scored at the last thirteen races and we know this level of consistency will be important in our close fight for fifth in the Constructors’ Championship.

How pleasing is it to see Esteban and Fernando scoring regularly?

Both drivers are managing to score points consistently. Fernando and Esteban are the closest matched driver pairing on the grid this year, which demonstrates just how strong our line-up is at the moment. They are working well together, and we’re enjoying their ability to push each other and push the team forwards. The racing is hard and fair, and we aim to keep scoring regular points with both of them.

What does Daniil Kvyat bring to the Team?

He is our reserve driver and is always ready to step in if one of our main drivers was unable to race. He is very experienced and contributes to our development programmes both at the factory and at the track. No later than last week, we have been testing the 18-inch prototype tyres with Pirelli in the wet in Magny-Cours with Daniil at the wheel of a modified RS18 car. We’re looking forward to having him join us in Sochi this weekend, in his home country.

What are your thoughts on the Alpine Academy Drivers’ recent success?

Sochi will also be a busy weekend for our Academy drivers with both Formula 2 and Formula 3 in action. In Formula 2, we had all three drivers on the podium at least once in Monza. Oscar and Zhou are in a thrilling title fight with each other and we’re looking forward to seeing how the next round will unfold. It’s the final race of the Formula 3 Championship with Victor and Caio amongst the top rookies in the series. Hopefully the two of them can record wins and podiums and finish the season on a high note.

Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon heads to Sochi having scored points on all three of his appearances in Russia. After celebrating his 25th birthday last week, the Frenchman aims for points again on the edge of the Black Sea.

How ready are you to take on Sochi?

I enjoyed the triple header and it was good for the team to score strong points at all three races. Monza was a challenging race for us as we weren’t as competitive there as we have been at other tracks this year. I think we can be more competitive in Sochi. Last year, as a team, we finished fifth and seventh, and it would be great if we can repeat something similar this year. The competition for fifth in the Constructors’ Championship is very close and it’ll be decided by very fine margins. If we can keep our form going, keep scoring with both cars, then we know we’re going to be in with a shot by the end of the season.

What is the circuit like to drive?

Sochi is quite a good track to race on. It’s got some interesting corner combinations and a decent flow to it. Most of the circuit is medium speed and the main challenge comes towards the end of the lap when it’s slower speed and the rear tyres tend to overheat. There are overtaking opportunities into Turn 2 after the long straight, and the aim is to be in the mix to capitalise on any chances.

How will you approach the weekend?

As I said, we were competitive there last year and we’re back to a more conventional race weekend after the Sprint in Monza. There’s no reason why we can’t be competitive again and we’ll target a productive Friday to make sure we’re prepared for the rest of the weekend. The atmosphere in Russia is always good to experience and I’m looking forward to seeing fans there this year. I enjoyed my 25th birthday last week, so coming home with a bag full of points will be the best belated gift! 

Fernando Alonso

Russia welcomes Fernando Alonso back after a two-year absence from the Sochi Autodrom. Following his eighth-place finish at the Italian Grand Prix, Fernando is hungry to continue his current form around the 5.848km Olympic park venue in Sochi.

In Monza you finished eighth adding some more points to the team’s tally. What are your main takeaways from the weekend?

Monza was a tough weekend for us where we didn’t have the pace that we’ve shown at other races earlier in the year. I think we maximised everything we could from our weekend to score points and did well with the Sprint Qualifying format. If I was a fan watching from home, then I would have enjoyed the format because it gives you two races during a weekend. I’m glad to score more points for the team, and had it not been for what happened in Belgium, then it could have been the ninth race in a row inside the points.

You’re back in Sochi. What do you like about the track there?

I’ve raced in Sochi five times before and it’ll be good to return there this weekend. In the past I’ve not had a great Saturday there, but then in the race I’ve made up quite a few positions. So, let’s see if we can put it all together this year. In 2016 I had a very enjoyable race and we climbed eight positions that day. It’s a pretty fast circuit and the track is quite wide, so this helps with closer racing. You need a car that is quick in the straights, so it’ll be interesting to see how we shape up against everyone else.

With eight races left on the calendar, what are your targets for the rest of the season?

I think at this stage with the new regulations coming next year most teams, if not all, are already focusing on that. Our target is to consolidate our position in the Constructors’ Championship as we have stiff competition from Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin. We need to keep scoring double points finishes like we did in Italy and capitalise on any opportunities that arise. It’s been a long season already, but I am really enjoying being back racing. The cars are great to drive and the team atmosphere we are building is very positive. We have hopes for next season, but we need to enjoy the rest of this year and I will keep pushing to get the best out of myself and the car.

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