After two races in 2021, Alpine did not look as good as Renault did last year, suggesting that the team would not be able to fight with Ferrari or Mclaren this year. However, Esteban Ocon seems confident approaching the Portugal Grand Prix.
On Friday, both Ocon and his teammate Fernando Alonso set very encouraging lap times around Portimao, classifying themselves in P5 and P6 at the term of the second practice session.
The first two races of the season were not very encouraging for the French team. As a comparison, with one DNF in each of the first two races of last season, Renault still managed to score 8 points, whereas Alpine only scored 3 during the first two events of 2021. These results were already suggesting that Alpine did not manage to make the same step forward as McLaren and Ferrari, during the offseason.
Nonetheless, the Tricolore team might beat the odds this weekend, in Portugal, if they manage to claim a good amount of points and close the gap to the main contenders for the third position in the constructor’s championship, being McLaren and Ferrari. The Italian team is currently standing in P4 with 34 points while its British opponent stands in P3 with 41 points.
Ocon also explained that the team is finally starting to understand the behavior of the A521 more deeply, helping them to bring better aero packages each weekend and therefore allowing them to fight for better results.
“For sure we are working towards improving the car, understanding and as I said, extract the maximum out of the platform,” Ocon said.
“We are finding little bits here and there constantly, which is very positive. But yeah, we need to do that tomorrow. It’s only FP2.”
Nonetheless, the Frenchman pointed out that the track is basically new to all the teams as it is only its second appearance on the modern F1 calendar. The lack of experience from the F1 grid on this track could be an important asset for Alpine if they can understand its subtleties quicker than the others.
Ocon is, therefore, preparing himself for a close fight but still says himself very satisfied with this Friday letting us guess he is hoping to be able to fight with McLaren and Ferrari on Saturday.
“This track is still a challenge for everybody. The grip has improved compared to last year, but it’s still quite tricky out there. It’s moving quite a lot. It will be a fight. It was good enough for today, but tomorrow will be tight,” said Ocon.
“It leaves us optimistic. Fernando is very quick as well, so there’s all the reasons we can be very happy about today, and we are in a position to fight tomorrow.”
“I think it will be close tomorrow, it will be a tough battle with everybody, looking at how close the times are”