Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Alonso predicts “surprises” when teams reveal true pace in Bahrain

2021 F1 season

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Fernando Alonso suspects there have been changes in the balance of power in Formula 1 during the off-season.

Mercedes’ dominated last season, winning all bar four of the 17 races. However the world champions looked subdued in testing while rivals Red Bull set the pace.

But teams’ performance in testing is notoriously difficult to interpret, and Alonso said he expects to see surprises when their true pace is revealed at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

“We covered a lot of mileage during testing, which is important as it gives you something to build on for the rest of the season,” said Alonso. “We also completed most of our programme during the three days in Bahrain, so we are relatively pleased on that front.

“In terms of performance it’s too early to tell, and I think we won’t know the true pecking order of the grid until the first qualifying session on Saturday where everyone has low fuel, the fastest tyres fitted and full power from the engine. I expect there will be a few surprises.”

Alonso is making his return to Formula 1 after two years away racing in IndyCar, the World Endurance Championship and Dakar rally. He suffered a jaw injury in a cycling accident last month, and will drive with a plate in his jaw this year, but says he is ready and eager to race again.

“Ever since I agreed to join Alpine F1 Team, I have put a lot of effort in to be both physically and mentally prepared for this season. I learnt a lot in my time away from Formula 1, especially all the different styles of racing, but I’m now back in F1 and very motivated for what should be a challenging season ahead.

“It was fun to be back at the wheel of an F1 car for testing, but now I can’t wait to go racing.”

Alpine’s executive director Marcin Budkowski said Alonso and team mate Esteban Ocon were positive in their feedback about the team’s revised car after testing.

“Even if it was just three days of running, they both had exactly one and a half days each. Both Esteban and Fernando would agree they had the best preparation possible given the time allowed and they both enter race week having driven the exact same number of laps in the car, counting the shakedown.

“The A521 is sane, it’s responding well to set-up changes and we know the areas we can work on to make it quicker.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 26 comments on “Alonso predicts “surprises” when teams reveal true pace in Bahrain”

    1. Hopefully that car is able to get in the mix for third place, I’d love seeing a five-way battle for third. It did not look particularly quick but it’s probably one of the most reliable in the pack. Also, no driver / team was able to really optimize everything, there will be an adaptation race at the beginning which could be interesting.

      What I’m more worried about is that Renault always said their target was 2022, so I suspect they could quickly drop the ball this year with that old chassis.

      1. but it’s probably one of the most reliable in the pack.

        why should Renault suddenly be the most reliable Team after being one of the most unreliable teams for years?

        1. Because they changed their air intake and the rule forbidding the engine maps helps them

        2. Fair enough, let’s say it was one of the most reliable in the test.

    2. Somehow I doubt that Fernando will be happy chasing third place. This is why we like the guy so much. Wining is not a one time thing, it is everything for him.
      The man with the Ti jaw, an iron will and likely a steely glare.
      This is going to be one of the more interesting aspects of the new season.
      “Iron” said the Barron, sitting in his hall.
      Iron, cold iron, is master of them all.

      1. Colonel_Blimp
        24th March 2021, 8:20

        “Wining is not a one time thing, it is everything for him”
        Some would say that whining is an every time thing for him.

        Not me.

    3. Well it won’t be a surprise if Alpine is not exactly on level and have to fight with Ferrari and Alpha Tauri for the last Q3 and points places, but sincerely hope not.

      But I suppose he’s talking about Red Bull and Mercedes, so it seems even an old fox like Alonso has forgotten that Mercedes have been bad in testing before.

      1. He is a double world champion so I guess he knows a things or two about testing an F1 car since 2001. Have you tested an F1 car?

        Reply moderated
      2. @balue how do you know he’s saying Mercedes will be bad? He could equally be saying that they’re going to be better than many seem to be expecting – some would count that as a surprise.

        As for Alpine – my suspicion is they’ll be better than many think, as I read somewhere they didn’t do any performance runs in testing. A level similar to last year where they were fighting for 3rd with McLaren and RP would be what I’d expect.

        1. @tflb It would be no surprise if they are good, as they have been bad in testing before like I said and obviously been in a league of their own once the season started.

          The surprise is really that people will believe it yet again, but ‘hope springs eternal’ as they say. I too sort of want to believe it.

    4. Jamie Franklin
      23rd March 2021, 14:56

      It was so frustrating that he was doing his usual against-the-odds drives, but just about pulling the McLaren (near worst car on the grid) into the points. So excited to see him driving out his skin to grab a few against-the-odds podiums. Absolute legend.

      Reply moderated
    5. Surprises? really? Interesting. I was thinking more of the same, a continuation of last season.

      1. Maybe he meant “few sursprises” I think the extra A is redundant.

    6. Very exciting to have “Fred Lockjaw Iron Man” back in the mix. You know he will give everything the car has.

    7. The only real surprise would be one of the triple A’s fighting for a podium place in a non eventful race.

      RedBull, McLaren and Mercedes at the podium wouldn’t be news. Ferrari and Aston also expected, on strategy (Aston) or driver skills (Ferrari).

      But Alpine (Alonso), Alpha Tauri (would say Gasly, but Tsunoda drove consistently at testing as well) or Alfa Romeo (Raikkonen) “getting in there” in a normal race would be a surprise. A very good one by the way.

    8. Regarding using testing as a metric for performance, you occasionally hear that some teams like Mercedes are sandbagging but what is the purpose of hiding your true pace at this stage? Is it a psychological thing, to make other teams complacent?

      1. @Konstantinos Maybe.

      2. Sandbagging is a way to hide the true potential. But what happened to Mercedes was not sandbagging. They really had some unexpected and time consuming problems.
        The problems multiplied as a result of the driver changing mid day. They lost an enormous amount of time.

      3. In the case of a prolonged monopoly at the peak of f1, Mercedes sandbagging protects the image of F1, engages fans and perhaps even helps to prevent conplacency in the team.

      4. I believe it is purely psychological. For example, if Mercedes show their true pace but Red Bull keep some in hand with fuel loads that only they know, then the knowledge becomes asymmetric as Red Bull knows exactly where they stack up, while Mercedes are left to guess so they won’t know whether the direction they have taken the car is positive or not. Additionally, people tend to copy ideas from the teams that are doing well – you won’t see people copying the Williams – so by downplaying your performance by looking slower, you can potentially stop your rivals from trying to copy your solutions so early on.

    9. I think the new Honda motor is seriously strong. I think Verstappen, Perez & Gasly and maybe Tsunoda will visit the podium with Mercedes, not sure about McLaren

      1. Yah Honda look pretty good.
        AT need at least 2 in front to fail and a couple of others without luck – probable in a long season.
        No matter how well they’ve done with aero and chassis, McLaren will surely have reliability issues dialling in cooling on that PU at all tracks – how far to push the envelope ended up costing RP 3rd place last year but I think that’ll affect their chances at championship positions not individual races (other than penalties) – similar to AT, they should get a choccy on a good day.
        My dark horse is Ferrari to visit though a green merc wouldn’t shock me – both their drivers have tracks they’re happy with.

    10. I predict huge fighting spirit at least from Alonso this year and i welcome it. Keep all in mind that this guy was 2 years, racing with millimeters one car from the other and this is huge knowledge for me. Add his vast F1 experience and we have a good combination.
      I say this even though, i never liked him for some unknown reason in my mind but I’m glad his back.

      1. Getting your teeth knocked out because of misjudging cars in traffic like Alonso did, is not good at his age and right before a comeback season. I expect this to knock a few percentage points off his confidence.

    11. Hmm, What a good story would a Honda Championship win be.

      Surprising and fun. Then next year Hamilton can try to earn goat status.

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