For the fifth time this season the Alpine F1 Team had both cars in Qualifying Three, with Fernando Alonso qualifying sixth and Esteban Ocon tenth in what was challenging conditions at the Russian Grand Prix.
Alonso came out as top Alpine on Saturday at the Sochi Autodrom, after putting his vast experience to use in very tricky conditions. After heavy rainfall at the circuit Saturday morning it was looking likely that qualifying may even get cancelled. Thankfully the weather eased allowing what was an exhilarating session.
Alonso made it into Qualifying Three comfortably and even ended Qualifying Two in third whilst on the intermediate tyres. The Spaniard put an initial lap time in on the intermediate tyres in final qualifying, before following the rest of the field and switching onto the soft tyres. In the end Alonso managed to put his car in sixth after a crazy last couple minutes, with everything trying to find grip for their slick tyres.
The double world champion is happy with sixth but believes he could have qualified even higher up the grid.
“I’m happy with sixth position in qualifying as the conditions weren’t easy out there today. It was very stressful as we’ve never run in the wet in Sochi. There was no time to experiment and find where the grip was on the track. But, in the end, we were competitive in both wet and damp conditions. I also lost about five tenths of a second on my final lap in Q3, so I could have qualified even higher than sixth. Tomorrow will be difficult because we have several very fast cars starting behind us, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
“There was definitely potential for more” – Esteban Ocon
Like his team-mate, Ocon made it to Qualifying Three relatively comfortably. The Frenchman unfortunately suffered the same fate as both Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers in final qualifying, and switched onto the soft tyres too late in the final session. This meant that Ocon only had one flying lap on the slick rubber, compared to others two. Ocon couldn’t improve in the end after failing to generate heat into his soft tyres.
Ocon is frustrated with tenth as he knows more was possible, however his starting position isn’t the end of the world.
“I’m a bit frustrated with today’s Qualifying as we weren’t able to optimise Q3 in the changing conditions. Ultimately, we didn’t put the right tyres on at the right time in Q3 and we missed out on two attempts on Softs at the end. There was definitely potential for more than tenth today as I like these sessions in challenging conditions. On a positive, we have both cars starting in the top ten and it’s not a bad starting position to be in. Tomorrow looks dry, but whatever the conditions, we will be ready.”