This season marks the beginning of a new era for the team formerly known as Renault, now Alpine F1 Team with the team starting their first Grand Prix under their new name and with a new driver line-up with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso returning to Enstone.
Marcin Budkowski, the Executive Director of Alpine, feels that his team has had a good pre-season test, registering plenty of laps and not suffering any reliability issues. All programs that they set out to complete were completed and Budkowski feels that the team are more prepared than perhaps previous years gone by.
However, there are still some things about the car that they are yet to find out about, and the three free practice sessions should allow the team to do this.
“We had a good pre-season test and we covered solid mileage without any significant reliability issues,” said Budkowski. “We went through our items and, from a preparation point of view, we’re in better shape than previous seasons.
“We have some unanswered questions on the car, though, and we are working through all the data from the test last week to improve our understanding and are planning further tests in free practice on Friday.”
This season is very unique, in that usually the teams would be heading off to Australia after a break between the pre-season tests and the first grand prix, however this year both the pre-season test and opening grand prix take place at the same circuit just over a week apart, giving teams less time to make changes based on evidence found in the pre-season tests.
“It’s certainly unique as normally we’re used to testing in Barcelona in February before going to Australia for the opening race,” said Budkowski. “By the time we arrived in Barcelona in May for the race, not only does the car evolve, but the conditions are so much different.
“This year, however, we’re returning to the same venue at the same time of the year, so we’re definitely more ready for the race weekend than we would normally be at this point of the season.”
“Some of the tests we did last week were planned on giving us a head start for the race”
Not all of the tests last week were planned with the first Grand Prix in mind, with tests on tyres bearing in mind for most of the rest of the season. With track time being reduced on a Friday from three to two hours, the tests were important to exploit any flaws in the car.
During the test there were some testing conditions in which the car behind to behave differently to how the drivers were used to and this is something that the team will need to work on in order to have success in the season.
“Some of the tests we did last week were planned on giving us a head start for the race, especially tyre related work. We also have less time on a Friday this year – from three hours of track time to two hours – so that makes preparation work more difficult. That said, the same venue and conditions can play its tricks. During the test, the wind
direction turned 180 degrees and that made a difference to car behaviour. That’s something we’ll keep an eye on.”
Both Alonso and Esteban Ocon expressed positive feelings about the car after the test and feel that they have made the most of the shortened amount of time that has been made available to teams to test their cars for 2021. The new A521 has no features that make it undrivable and having established that it is time to maximize the pace of the car.
“Both drivers were positive after the test. Even if it was just three days of running, they both had exactly one and a half days each. Both Esteban and Fernando would agree they had the best preparation possible given the time allowed and they both enter race week having driven the exact same number of laps in the car, counting the shakedown. The A521 is sane, it’s responding well to set up changes and we know the areas we can work on to make it quicker.”
FIA Formula 2 also gets underway this weekend with three Alpine Academy Members Competing – Oscar Piastri, Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard, and Budkowski will be paying close attention to see how these talented up and coming drivers fare in the highest rung of the feeder series ladder.
“We also have Formula 2 starting this week in Bahrain. Christian, Zhou and Oscar are three promising drivers on our young driver programme, and we’ll watch them with great
attention during their races.”