Esteban Ocon felt it was a positive opening day of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix weekend despite an incident involving Sergio Pérez curtailing his morning session early on.
The Alpine F1 Team driver was on a cool down lap when he found himself in the path of Red Bull Racing’s Pérez on the apex of the first part of the Variante Villeneuve chicane. Ocon’s right front wheel hit Pérez’s left rear, causing damage to both and bringing out the red flags.
With tracking and other systems down, it was difficult for those on the pit wall to communicate with their drivers, and as a result, the stewards at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari deemed that it was impossible to lay any blame on either driver.
Ocon praised his mechanics for fixing the car in-between the two sessions, and he rewarded them by placing eleventh, two places ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso.
“We’ve made a positive start to the weekend even with this morning’s incident,” said Ocon. “Fortunately for Sergio [Pérez] and I, we didn’t lose too much track time, which is important with the one-hour sessions.
“The incident was unfortunate, but we were able to put it behind us and move on to the afternoon. The mechanics did a great job in turning the car around on time, so thanks to them for their quick and solid work.
“I think we have a solid base to work from. There are still some things to tweak with the balance, but the car behaves quite well here and I’m looking forward to pushing on over the next two days.”
“Hopefully there is a little more still to come” – Fernando Alonso
Alonso also felt it was a good Friday for Alpine, although he would have liked a more straightforward day without all the red flag interventions. The red flag flew no fewer than three times across the two one-hour sessions.
The veteran Spaniard was seventh fastest in the morning session but slipped to thirteenth in the afternoon. However, he hopes the team can find some more pace with their updated A521 so he can try and get into the top ten in Qualifying on Saturday.
“It was a good Friday and we completed our programme today with no issues,” said Alonso. “Apart from the red flags and other incidents that stopped the two sessions, I was happy with the test items we put on the car and I felt an improvement in the performance.
“Let’s see where we are tomorrow and hopefully there is a little more still to come. As we suspected it’s going to be very close again so qualifying should be interesting. It was great to drive again in Imola and feel the car in these high grip conditions.”