US GP 2021 - Alpine F1 preview
The team collected a solitary point in Turkey courtesy of Esteban Ocon’s zero-stop strategy in damp conditions. Focus turns to Austin, Texas, where the stakes are as hot as the BBQ in the closely fought Constructors’ Championship contest as Executive Director Marcin Budkowski explains.
After executing a rare zero-stop strategy last time out, what are the team’s overall thoughts from Istanbul?
While we scored one point with Esteban, we feel Turkey was a missed opportunity, especially with Fernando. Starting from fifth on the grid and having been competitive throughout the weekend – the closest we’ve been to the top teams all season – we went into the race confident and hoping for a strong result, but the first lap incident completely ruined that. We need to keep qualifying strongly and hopefully next time we can convert our Saturday performances into bigger points on Sunday.
What fine margins will make the difference in the race for fifth?
It’s a tight fight for fifth in the Constructors’ Championship since the start of the season, and we have seen pretty big points swings at a few races. We had a decent points advantage going into Turkey, but we knew it was far from comfortable. It has now shrunk and we will need to keep scoring consistently at every race and taking every opportunity for bigger points when it presents itself, while keeping a close eye on our competitors. It will no doubt go to the wire, but we have good momentum and are relishing the challenge!
How exciting is it to go the United States again and racing at the Circuit of the Americas?
It’s a popular venue in Formula 1, both for the track and the city. Sector one replicates the Maggotts-Becketts combination at Silverstone, one that the drivers particularly enjoy. However, a few sections of the track are very bumpy, as covered extensively during the recent Moto GP event, which can be uncomfortable for the drivers but also forces some setup compromises. Off track, Austin is a great city with its own very unique vibe. It’s one of the favourite destinations on the calendar for many Formula 1 personnel.
Esteban Ocon turned heads with his masterful drive in Turkey to clinch the final point. Esteban is now looking forward to taking on Texas as he returns to the Circuit of the Americas for the first time since 2018. His aim is to add more points to the season tally.
Your race performance in Turkey caught some attention, how do you reflect on it?
I was quite happy to score a point in Turkey and it was probably one of the hardest points I’ve ever had to work for in my career! While scoring one point is good and positive, we know we need to score even more in order to stay ahead in the championship. The aim is to continue working hard as a team and deliver stronger results.
How excited are you to go back to Austin?
I really like Austin and I can’t wait to race there. For me, I’ve not raced there since 2018, so I’m definitely excited. As a track, I feel like Austin is a cool mix of different circuits all rolled into one. After the unique uphill Turn 1, the following flow of corners is kind of like Suzuka or Maggots-Becketts at Silverstone. Then there’s the long straight before a slightly tighter part, which is like the final sector in Mexico in a way. It’s a great track, there are some fast corners, some interesting challenges at the wheel and also overtaking opportunities.
What do you like about the US Grand Prix?
As a venue, Austin is one of the best on the calendar. I like the atmosphere there and I’m sure the American fans will make it very special in the grandstands. I do like the American buzz and I think there are some cool activities lined up this weekend, which should be fun. Of course, I enjoy food and having a Texas BBQ is a must while we’re out there! All in all, I’m looking forward to getting going and hopefully we can take home some points by Sunday night to make that post-race steak taste even sweeter.
Fernando Alonso heads back to the United States Grand Prix for his fourteenth appearance on American soil in Formula 1. The Spaniard aims to return to the top ten in Austin after a challenging Turkish Grand Prix.
How do you reflect on the last race in Turkey?
It was an unlucky race for us after such a promising Saturday. We qualified in our highest position of the season and had a competitive package all weekend. So, to lose all of that in just 200 metres was disappointing. Perhaps we’re saving all of the good luck for 2022! We can take some positives away from the weekend, though, with the point for Esteban and how strong we looked on Saturday. The car has felt good in two consecutive races, so we’ll look to return to the points with a strong performance in Austin this weekend.
It’s your fourteenth race on US soil in Formula 1. Are you excited for Austin?
It’s always fun racing in the US and I do enjoy the circuit in Austin. It’s one of the more challenging circuits on the calendar with each sector of the lap very different to the next. The characteristics of the track and the car can evolve during a lap, so it keeps you on your toes as a driver. It’s also a track that allows overtaking, which is good. You’re always guaranteed a good atmosphere in Austin and it’s a nice place to visit. Let’s see if our package can be competitive there and hopefully it’ll be a dry weekend for a change!
Having experienced both oval and circuit racing in your career, how do the two atmospheres compare?
It is very different to jump from one style to the other and obviously you are always competing with the best drivers of each championship. I enjoy both circuit and oval racing for different reasons. The atmosphere at races like the Indy 500 are quite unique and you can really feel the history of the race. There are a lot of fun things to do around the entire event. Formula 1 is across a smaller weekend, but I think Austin is a really great place for the sport and we have Miami next year too. It’s two very different types of racing but it’s great to see how F1’s popularity has grown in the US.