Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Imola, 2021

Ocon achieved “the maximum” for Alpine, Alonso “was not fast”

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Esteban Ocon believes he maximised the potential of his Alpine-Renault A521 in qualifying for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix by taking ninth place.

Having been fifth in the first segment of qualifying, Ocon placed ninth in Q2 and Q3. He came last in the top 10 shoot-out, but gained a place as Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll had his lap times deleted for track limits violations.

It was a turnaround for Ocon who failed to escape Q1 in Bahrain last month, but qualified less than eight tenths of a second away from pole today.

“I think it’s been a very good, straightforward session, which is what we needed looking at Bahrain, which was more tricky with yellow flags and all that,” Ocon said of his qualifying performance.

“I’m pretty pleased with how the session went and how the guys organised the traffic and how we managed things. The next thing is that I think we maximised the potential today. I think P9 was the maximum that we could have done, the other ones [in Q3] were a little bit quicker than us and out of reach.

Alonso expects a tough race after qualifying 15th
“The upgrades that we brought this weekend gave us confidence, the car felt good in all three sessions. And to be fair, I had a lot of fun out on this track, so that was good.”

Ocon still thinks the gap to the cars ahead is quite significant, and therefore was satisfied with his qualifying result.

“That’s why I’m saying we maximised the potential because I don’t think we could do anything better today,” he said. “It’s really good when you are able to extract the maximum out of the car.”

Ocon’s team mate Fernando Alonso, 15th, was less enthused after suffering his first qualifying defeat to a team mate in F1 since the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix.

“I was not fast,” conceded Alonso. “The car felt good, balance was good, and every time I finished the lap, I was quite happy with how I felt. But I definitely was too slow to be higher on the classification. So nothing we can do now, unfortunately. Just try to understand it, improve it for next time.

“It’s going to be a tough race starting at the back, Imola is not well known for overtaking opportunities.”

Alonso says he needs to become more confident with the car to get the best out of it at tracks like Imola.

“I need to understand better what is the limit of the car,” he explained. “In difficult tracks or in demanding circuits like this one you need to have a minimum trust level in the car. Because these old-school tracks require some trust in the car and confidence to push the limit while qualifying arrives.

“Maybe I’m not into that level yet. I will try to improve for the next one.”

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2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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16 comments on “Ocon achieved “the maximum” for Alpine, Alonso “was not fast””

  1. What has Renault done to that poor car!?! It looks like they glued a giant, fat tadpole onto the airbox above the driver’s head!
    They might as well glue a windbrake on the car to try and slow it down.

    1. @daved I wouldn’t have an issue if they were quick. But it’s not, so it just seems symbolic of what Renault/Alpine is: a mess.

    2. Apparently this engine cooling configuration has allowed them to have very aggressive undercutting/sculpting of the sidepods and they claim that the data show it to be a worthwhile tradeoff (the gains from the sculpting outweigh the extra drag from the bulbosity of the engine cover).

  2. Impressively candid from Alonso there. I do hope that he can get up to speed (this doesn’t feel like a vain hope as he wasn’t that bad in Bahrain) and that this isn’t going to be a repeat of Michael Schumacher’s return.

    1. @harrydymond I expect him to improve as the season wears on. The Renault/Alpine hasn’t been an easy car for drivers to adapt to, just look at Ricciardo’s and Ocon’s first year with the team. As adaptable as Alonso is, he still needs to get used to the handling of the car, and being away from F1 for two years won’t have helped. I’d expect him to be more competitive in 2022 compared to 2021 like he was in 2016 vs. 2015 when he last moved teams.

    2. I doubt alonso will be a repeat of schumacher’s comeback. First of all let me point out schumacher, according to mathematical models, performed almost exactly as expected when keeping into account the years out of the sport and the age-related decline, so his comeback wasn’t a disappointment, it was only a disappointment if you, like me, were expecting to find 1994-2006 schumacher at the wheel, which I admit was unrealistic.

      And obviously, alonso is several years younger, decline gets worse when you’re over 40, and alonso raced actively the last few years in other series, so I think he will be closer to his peak than schumacher was.

      1. @esploratore I think for both the question is “why bother coming back at all?” Schumacher had nothing left to prove and Alonso would clearly have been better served committing full-time to Indycar than returning to F1.

  3. Ocon may have been the faster one this time, but he needs to outperform and outscore Alonso over the season to be at a lower risk of losing his drive.

    1. Well this qualy is the only sample so far we have in order to compare both of them as Ocon got screwed in Bahrain.

      Reply moderated
  4. I was thinking kinda similarly, he looked better in Bahrain with its large run-off areas… still early days too, I think by the fifth race or so he should be gelled

  5. Ocon must be loving not having Ricciardo as a team mate, making such statements possible to improve his stock.

  6. I smell retirement if Alonso cannot control Ocon this year.

  7. But isn’t Alonso at his very best, just like he’s been at any point he’s ever been interviewed throughout his career? 😜

    1. Time goes on for everyone, not even alonso or schumacher, or hamilton (getting close too) will be able to perform in their 40s.

  8. I guess Alonso ran a wet configuration. It’s weird seeing such a difference between races.

    Cars are in the park fermé, and race setup is the same used in qualifying.

  9. This is what I expected with an older and recently hospitalized Alonso, that when it comes to taking bigger risks like this qualifying required, he’s not there.

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