Alpine showed an improved level of performance throughout Friday’s practice running for the Portuguese Grand Prix after struggling to battle with the midfield leaders at the opening two races.
While Esteban Ocon was able to translate this pace into qualifying, taking sixth place on the grid, two-time F1 world champion Alonso struggled to 13th, dropping out in Q2.
Alonso was left puzzled by the lack of pace in qualifying, believing that he lost performance from final practice, but was generally pleased with the improvements made with the car over the Portimao weekend.
“I think from FP3 to Q1 we lost quite a lot of the feeling of the car and the performance of the car, so that was a bad thing,” Alonso said.
“We are still investigating what could be the reasons to lose one second on the pace, but there is nothing we can do now.
“I’m still quite happy with everything this weekend. The car feels much better and much more alive and really competitive in all the sessions, so it has been a big step forward for us.
“Maybe we are not in the position that we should be, but at the same time we have the free choice of tyre, and that may be better for the race in a way as a team to have two possibilities with the two drivers.
“It has been a very positive weekend.”
Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Alpine brought some updated parts for the car to the last race at Imola, but said at the time that it expected them to offer bigger performance gains at other circuits.
Additional updates debuted at Portimao this weekend, but Ocon felt that his run to sixth in qualifying was also helped by a fine-tuning of the car.
“We had some new parts at Imola, but also here, we are trying still to understand all those upgrades that we are having, and extract the maximum out of those,” Ocon said.
“At Imola, the car felt decent to drive, but the platform that we have, there was potentially more to come with it. We’re understanding a few things that we needed to do which we’ve done here.
“We’ve tested them, and it paid off. I’m sure if we keep finding little areas like this where we can improve, we can probably bring the car even quicker.
“So there hasn’t been a significant change in terms of parts, but there has been some fine tuning of those.”
But Ocon revealed that his final effort in Q3 “wasn’t the best lap”, given the time that he set in final practice would have been good enough for fourth on the grid.
“The car was more tricky to drive in qualy than FP3, but the big step and big improvement that we’ve done was coming from Friday to Saturday morning,” Ocon said.
“So we did some minor changes in-between FP3 and qualy, but the big of the work was overnight, that we’ve done.
“That’s where we made the huge step, and the confidence that the car gave us was huge. Little bit more tricky, I would say, in qualy than in FP3, but still decent.”