Fernando Alonso said free practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix was the most comfortable he has been all season long on a Friday behind the wheel of the A521 as the Spaniard placed fifth fastest around the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve.
Alonso, who has made a return to Formula 1 in 2021 after two years away, was only fourteenth in the morning session in Portugal, but he improved by more than a second in the afternoon to jump into the top five.
The Alpine F1 Team racer is racing at the Portimão circuit for the first time in a Formula 1 car this year, and he feels it has been a promising start to the weekend.
“It was a good practice day for me and the most comfortable I’ve had this season compared to Bahrain and Imola,” said Alonso. “I was happy with the setup of the car quite early in the day, so I concentrated mostly on becoming more acclimatised to the circuit and then evaluating the tyres over the two sessions.
“There is still lots of data for us to analyse, but it’s a good start to the weekend. I enjoyed driving the circuit for the first time in a Formula 1 session, but I think traffic could be a challenge tomorrow in qualifying.
“It’s an exciting track to drive, that’s for sure.”
“This circuit is certainly a tricky track in terms of grip” – Esteban Ocon
Team-mate Esteban Ocon finished only 0.015 seconds behind Alonso in the afternoon session in Portugal, having placed tenth in the morning’s running.
The Frenchman felt the grip levels around the track have improved since they raced there last October, although he feels there is still issues with those grip levels that Alpine will have to overcome ahead of the rest of the weekend.
“It was a pretty solid day for us, especially in terms of mileage,” said Ocon, who completed fifty-eight laps across the two sessions. “We completed a lot of laps and that was quite nice.
“We tested all the tyre compounds and we have a good read on that ahead of the race on Sunday. This circuit is certainly a tricky track in terms of grip, but I would say it has improved since last season.
“It’s still a challenge for us and we’re working hard to get a little bit more grip from the car for tomorrow.”