We don’t know why we were so quick in Portugal, admits Alonso

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso says it isn’t immediately obvious why Alpine enjoyed their most competitive weekend of the season so far in Portugal.

The two-times world champion finished eighth, one place behind team mate Esteban Ocon, in yesterday’s race. It was the best result of the season for both drivers so far this year, but Alonso admitted the team “don’t know yet” why they were so quick from the first session at the track on Friday.

“Generally it was a good weekend, not only the race,” he said. “I felt the car [was] much more competitive here than Imola and Bahrain.

“We were fighting with one McLaren, with one Ferrari, AlphaTauri. So definitely we were in a group that we were not able to be in Imola or Bahrain. So that was a positive thing.

“We felt competitive already from FP1, we were fifth in FP2, we could have been third in FP3. So it remains a little bit a mystery what happened in qualifying where I felt not comfortable, I felt not the same grip as any other session, unfortunately. And that compromised a little bit my race.

“But overall I’m very happy with the weekend in general and the step forward by the performance of the car. I think it was a good Sunday for us as Alpine being competitive more than any other race so far this year.”

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The varied conditions and track layouts the teams have encountered so far this year make it hard to form an accurate view of how quick everyone is, says Alonso.

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix lap chart
Data: 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix lap charts, times and tyres
“We’re still discovering things on the car every weekend. We went into a very different circuit characteristics so far this year. Very different conditions as well from the heat of Bahrain and the slow speed corners with a combination of long straights to the damp Imola and now the windy Portimao.

“So I think we have to keep learning from the car and from our opponents as well, where they are a strong, where they are weak. And that will take more time, I think, for everybody.”

Alonso admitted he had “a lot of fun” and “good battles” as he worked his way forward from 13th on the grid. “In the first two races we were battling more towards the end of the midfield group, we had some battles with the Williams, with Alfa Romeo and the Ferrari, the McLaren, AlphaTauri, they were unreachable in Bahrain and here they were slower than us basically on the weekend. So that was good.

“Three races into the season, one retirement in Bahrain unfortunately, and two times in the points, so I cannot ask anything more. I’ve been learning and adapting to the team as quick as I can and still more to come. From three races, two times into points and one retirement, I think it’s a good start. But we need to get better.”

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19 comments on “We don’t know why we were so quick in Portugal, admits Alonso”

  1. Maybe the Alpine is the opposite of Max Verstappen and actually enjoys low-grip, recently resurfaced tracks.

    It’s gonna be a rocket in Turkey

  2. Ahah, that’s unusual, we don’t know why we were so quick!

    1. @esploratore
      Very unusual but not the first time in F1 though. I remember some years ago McLaren admitted that they were over-delivering on track in 2012. Their simulations and wind tunnel testing showed that they were somehow slower than their actual performance on the track and whenever they upgraded their car, the upgrades would deliver more than what was estimated.

      1. @tifoso1989 I hadn’t heard that but that must be incredibly rare if it’s true. Especially that the upgrades also overperformed their expectations. It’s much more likely that when trying to upgrade a car they don’t fully understand they would accidentally disturb some of the features that were causing it to overperform and actually have the upgrades hurt their overall performance.

        1. @keithedin
          Below is the interview with Martin Whitmarsh in which he mentioned that they were overdelivering in 2012.

          https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/mclaren-boss-martin-whitmarsh-feels-2012-car-overperformed-4468173/4468173/

  3. Maybe because the others were slow ? The gap between Ferrari/McLaren and Red Bull/Mercedes was significantly bigger than in Imola and Alpha Tauri were also struggling this weekend…

    1. someone or something
      3rd May 2021, 22:15

      @roadrunner
      I see where you’re coming from, but this isn’t a chicken-and-egg situation like when Red Bull or Mercedes perform better or worse from weekend to weekend. When Ferrari, and McLaren, and Alpha Tauri all lose ground compared to Alpine, the most parsimonious explanation is that Alpine improved, and not that the others collectively struggled.
      Occam’s razor, sharp as ever.

    2. @roadrunner Alonso was doing almost the leaders pace at one point, and even with fresher tyres that indicates they are the one to have improved

    3. @roadrunner Alonso, on 18 lap old hard tyres, was able to lap within 2 tenths of Bottas’ fastest lap that was set on brand new soft tyres. The pace was genuine. I don’t get how McLaren or Ferrari were much slower than at other tracks. Norris finished 51 seconds behind the leader in this race, which is comparable to the 46 seconds behind the leader that he finished in Bahrain. He was only 23 seconds behind in Imola, but that was down to a mid-race red flag.

  4. Possibly Alpine and Ferrari have a bit more downforce. That would explain why they worked better on hard. Their PUs are slower than other 2. But are improving. Think that next one will make them closer. And I bet Renault will willingly sacrifice reliability for last PU in season to have a better one for 2022.

    1. someone or something
      4th May 2021, 18:50

      Possibly Alpine and Ferrari have a bit more downforce.

      Ferrari – maybe. But Alpine were among the very fastest in all the speedtraps in the race, and, perhaps even more importantly, in qualifying. Must’ve been something else than downforce.
      Maybe it had to do with mechanical grip, not that it was particularly good or bad, just that it happened to produce just the right slipping angle to warm these tyres up quickly without graining them?
      Whatever it was, I think the conditions were unusual enough to have all tyre strategist scratching their heads.

  5. I think you’re probably right. Nevertheless, the faster Alpine was 0.694 seconds away from pole, which is a bit less than in Imola (0.799 seconds) and especially Bahrain (1.252 seconds). Futhermore, their pace in the race, particularly with the hard tyres, was not bad at all, even when compared to the front runners.
    Anyway, Barcelona’s GP is just days away. We’ll see.

    Reply moderated
  6. That’s why (better performance with hard). Ferrari struggled with mediums. McLaren did very well. The oranges seems to be better balanced. I don’t see Alpine getting close to them for now. Ferrari has deeper pockets and probably a more talented team than the French. Should stay ahead. But they ‘ll need a bit of luck to pass McLaren, also a near perfect Leclerc. Norris is near perfect.
    Is good to see medium teams improving though. A pity AM isn’t also.

  7. only one team and one driver gets these tyres. some like lando are obviously doing something right and alpine did something right as well this weekend the rest are clueless.

  8. Maybe it’ really Alpine’s configuration of slimming the sidepods by putting things high behind the intake, is really working on this high-speed circuit? And vice-versa, the aero effect is not so much there in slow corners, but the negative effects of higher center of gravity is, thus explaining the big gap between the circuits?

  9. The hunchback is less sensible for wind.
    Others struggle to keep their car on track.

    1. We already can see the usual one lap pace deficit to Mercedes is around half a second and very tight between McLaren, Ferrari and Alpine by a matter one or two tenths of a second. If this is how its going to be for the rest of the season then this plays into Mercedes hands and they’ll win an 8th boring championship in 7 years. It is up to the likes of McLaren – with a Mercedes engine, and Red Bull with a Honda one, to get their race pace up to the standards required. Their continued failure as THE main manufacturers, as well Ferrari means this form of motorsport is going to drive away audiences within the next 5 years. No one seriously wants to see one manufacturer with one driver dominate like it was Schumacher at Ferrari 17-21 years ago, or Vettel at Red Bull Renualt 8-11 years ago. Next year will be crossroad for Formula1, otherwise Formula E will decimate this totally predictable and uninspiring form of motorsport..

      Reply moderated
  10. I have an opinion
    5th May 2021, 0:38

    Oh come on, we have all known for ages. It’s because he drives like an animal and brings six tenths.

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