In Italy, the BWT Alpine F1 Team finished with Fernando Alonso ninth and Esteban Ocon sixteenth in the first sprint qualifying of the season ahead of tomorrow’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
It was a missed opportunity for Alonso to improve on his fifth on the grid as he dropped four places to ninth at the checkered flag. Ocon was able to take a number of positions as he converted his back lane position to 16th by the end. As a result, there is still plenty to play for in tomorrow’s 63-lap race in Imola.
Both drivers chose to start the 21-lap Sprint on soft tires. Fernando Alonso struggled to get off his starting spot and slipped two places back into Turn 2 on the opening lap. Esteban Ocon, meanwhile, was able to take advantage of an incident on the first lap for him to gain two places, adding to the position he achieved on the run to the first corner from the line.
Alonso was locked in for the rest of the race, eventually taking eighth place – and the last points-scoring position – five laps from the end to finish ninth. Ocon was unable to advance from sixteenth place with a train of drivers blocking his advance.
Esteban Ocon, started P19, finished P16:
“It was a difficult race in general today and it would always be a challenge for us to gain places. Finishing 16th was probably the best we could have achieved. I had a good start, avoided the incidents and from there it was a train with the cars in front of me. It was difficult to make progress, but I am confident we can do more tomorrow. Our goal is to score points. We got a good understanding of the tires today, which will help with our strategy. There could also be some rain and, as we know in Formula 1, anything can happen.”
Fernando Alonso, started P5, finished P9:
“We weren’t fast enough today, so it was a disappointing sprint qualifying for us. There was a lot of tire wear and our start was far from ideal, so we have to look at that tonight. We knew it would be difficult to keep Perez and Sainz behind us at the pace they have, so we thought seventh place might be a realistic position today. But with the closure of the tires it became more difficult to achieve this. We have tomorrow to recover and today is almost like a Q4! We will review our tire selection and see what the weather will do tomorrow as it looks like there is a chance of rain. There is certainly more to play for.”
Otmar Szafnauer, team principal:
“It was a disappointing sprint qualifying for the team today, leaving us with some work to do before tomorrow’s feature race. Unfortunately, Fernando’s race was jeopardized from the start when a bad start meant that he was left behind and had to go into defensive rather than offensive mode. From then on he was unable to progress and we need to identify some of the areas that will make our car more competitive in race trim. On Esteban’s side, he was able to take advantage of the early incident with cars ahead of him to gain some positions meaning he is slightly better on the grid for tomorrow’s race. Tomorrow, with half an eye to the sky, and some unpredictability in the forecast, will be a challenge and we will do our best to have both cars in the points at the end of the feature race.”