Saudi Arabia GP 2021 - AlphaTauri preview
“In overall terms, the last triple-header went very well for us, with strong Qualifying performances; fifth in Mexico, fourth in Brazil and Qatar. We also had good races, apart from the Sunday in Qatar, when the car did not go well, destroying the tyres very quickly. Of course, with the team we have now studied the reasons for that in the hope it won’t repeat itself. Unfortunately, in the Championship the position is more complicated, as Alpine had a good weekend in Qatar. It was great to be on the front row again, the first time since I raced in Super Formula in Japan in 2017, and being there alongside Lewis was very cool. I hope there will be more of those moments in the future. Even though I was there slightly by default, we have come close a few times this year and it was a good experience. I got a taste for it!
Judging from what I saw on the simulator, Saudi will be extremely quick, with a large number of very high-speed corners, some of them blind. I think it’s going to be very complicated from a driving point of view and there will be the extra challenge of the track surface being completely new. No cars have ever raced on it, there will be no rubber down and probably some oil will still be coming out of the tarmac, which is what normally happens at a new circuit. So, we are looking at a street circuit with quite low grip, which is a new challenge as no one has any data from the track. But for our part, we showed in Qatar that we can adapt fairly quickly to a new situation, running near the front immediately from the Friday. However, we will have to work hard to be quick over a single lap and also a long distance, to find the right compromise for both Saturday and Sunday. Another thing that is clear from the simulator is that the speeds are very high, but the walls are very close, so it should be impressive from the cockpit and a nice challenge, which we must prepare as well as possible for.”
“That last triple header was good for my confidence in the car. I improved a lot and that could be seen from my pace, which was better than at previous races. That was all positive. In Mexico, I had an engine penalty, then an accident on the first lap and Brazil was tough with the lack of practice because of Sprint Qualifying, I believe I could have done better. Qatar went well up until the race and I had a strong performance in Qualifying. So, there are some good points and some bad ones from the last three races.
Since Qatar, I have spent a day karting. It’s always good to do something different, driving something that’s not a Formula 1 car. You can learn from it and get interesting feedback that can be useful to help you improve in some areas. Alex (Albon) was also there, so we had a good fun karting session together. It’s also physically demanding, using different muscles to those you need in an F1 car, making it also useful from the training point of view. Apart from that, I spent some time in the simulator learning the new Saudi track. It’s really fast and that means confidence in the car will be an important factor, because the run-off areas are not so big. It will be important for me to do a good job of building up speed during the free practice sessions. At least I am in the same situation as the other drivers, as this circuit will be completely new to everyone, just like Qatar.“
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