Alpine doubt first win signals a performance breakthrough

2021 F1 season

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Alpine does not believe its maiden victory in last week’s Hungarian Grand Prix came about because of a breakthrough in the team’s performance.

Esteban Ocon, who was eliminated in Q1 at both races in Austria last month, reached the top 10 in Hungary and went on to claim a surprise victory after several drivers collided at the start of last week’s race.

However sporting director Alan Permane said he hadn’t seen signs the team had taken a major stop forward in performance: “I don’t think so, unfortunately.”

“I think if you look at where we were in qualifying [on] this track we felt would suits us, I think we are where we are,” he explained. “[But] we will continue learning the car and we will continue improving it but only by small amounts like others will do theirs.”

Ocon and team mate Fernando Alonso qualified eighth and ninth respectively. Prior to the race Alpine team executive director Marcin Budkowski said the team had only just moved into fighting with the midfield.

“We knew it was going to be tight, as it has been for all this season, to get into Q3,” Budkowski admitted. “We looked more competitive than usual compared to last races and compared to our competitors.

“It looked like we’re just a little bit further forward of the backmarkers, closer to McLaren, Ferrari. In the mix, with a bit bigger of an advantage on the Alfa Romeo and Williams, still very much in the pack with AlphaTauri and Aston Martin. But a little bit more competitive altogether from the weekend.”

The team went into qualifying expecting a shot at the top 10. Both cars reached the final round for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix, while Alonso made it into Q2 after just one run. “We knew we had a really good chance of making it to Q3 and obviously, that was the objective,” said Budkowski.

“Equally, I think Fernando’s form was very, very good from Q1 and we were almost hoping for bit better with Fernando. So happy with both cars in Q3 and a little bit disappointed, but I guess disappointed is not a bad Saturday.”

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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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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14 comments on “Alpine doubt first win signals a performance breakthrough”

  1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    8th August 2021, 8:10

    No this was a breakthrough in luck for Ocon.

  2. I agree.
    Only by two major errors by Mercedes they could win.
    Bottas Bowling the competition put of the race. Lewis and the team totally screwing up the tire strategy. And unable to pass a 3 sec a lap slower car because he made the exact same mistakes for 10 laps on a row by Lewis.

  3. “Equally, I think Fernando’s form was very, very good from Q1 and we were almost hoping for bit better with Fernando. So happy with both cars in Q3 and a little bit disappointed, but I guess disappointed is not a bad Saturday.”

    Marcin seems to be disappointed with Fernando. Well, what do you expect? It’s clear that Alonso isn’t as fast as he was five or ten years ago. And he will get only slower every day.

    Next year, no matter what car Alonso gets, he will not be fighting for the WDC. He has the skill, but he lacks the speed. In particular, in the last races, it was clear he didn’t have enough race pace.

    PS: Most likely, in 2022 Alpine will continue fighting for top 10 with zero chance of a podium or race win in normal conditions.

    1. Really not clear that Alonso has lost much in the way of pace. He had three races where he was off the pace early in the season, but since then he has generally shown more pace than Ocon. In Hungary he was 21 seconds behind Ocon during the first stint due to being held up in traffic, then was closing at a second per lap in the second stint, until he was only 6.5 seconds behind when his pace dropped due to his battle with Hamilton. Marcin’s comment on disappointment was clearly just referring to Alonso’s Q3 in Hungary because up to then he had shown a bit more pace so they hoped for a little better there.

      So far, to me it looks like Alonso is still one of the better performing drivers on the grid, and he might still have more improvements to come later in the season as he gets more familiar with the car, tyres, and F1 again.

      1. I must admit I was one of those people who thought him coming back will just taint his legacy and could only do harm to it at this point. Was never a big fan but I’m a sucker for an underdog and was rooting for him now.

        Boy, did he not disappoint! I expected a similar situation to Rosberg-Schumacher where the latter was washed away. So far, even though Ocon is ahead in terms of points (let’s be honest, at least partly due to luck) and Alonso being somewhat being weaker in the beginning of the season, overall Alonso seems to be the better driver, and at this age against a big promise Ocon used to be it’s no small feat.

        Would love to see him prevail but at this age he’s at a massive disadvantage. One thing what can’t be taken away from him is though that he’s way better than anyone could have reasonably hoped for IMO

        1. F1 metrics, a site where mathematical models are used to estimate driver performance by comparing team mates, that’s not what I’d call a washaway, points don’t tell the whole things when one is very unlucky with reliability, look no further than hamilton vs verstappen this year, or, since I guess you like hamilton, rosberg vs hamilton in 2016 where the latter was the most unlucky.

          https://f1metrics.wordpress.com/2019/11/22/the-f1metrics-top-100/

          “On return to Formula 1 in 2010, Schumacher’s driving lacked its former effortless brilliance and he was, at least at first, clearly outperformed by teammate Nico Rosberg. By most drivers’ standards, his 2011-2012 performances were very respectable, both rated inside the season top 10, but not to the sublime standard of Schumacher’s main career. Schumacher’s performance in 2012 is rated slightly lower than his 2011 performance, which can be attributed to unfortunately timed DNFs in 2012. On detailed analysis, he was very closely matched with teammate Rosberg in 2012. According to the model, Schumacher’s performances in these Mercedes years are almost exactly in line with expectations, based on his age and lack of recent experience.”

    2. Sviat

      He has the skill, but he lacks the speed. In particular, in the last races, it was clear he didn’t have enough race pace.

      Source: your own wishful thinking and a lingering need to keep terribly aged sensationalist topics alive.

      Race pace has been exactly one of the aspects in which Alonso is making most of the difference this season, along with race strategy. Of course Alonso had an inconsistent performance in the beginning of the year, but the reason for that is generally on bad qualifyings rather than weak races, as he often recovered partially the positions lost after having qualfied way behind his teammate. But then Baku onwards things had fallen into place for him after his readaptation process in Formula 1 and feeling at home driving his Alpine car. In the season as a whole he outqualified Ocon 6-5 and finished in the points eight times versus his teammate’s six, and also had been leading him by 12 points in the WDC before the Hungarian GP, in which Ocon’s win moved the Frenchman ahead of Alonso by one point (39-38).
      Ever since Baku there’s plenty of evidence of Alonso’s strong turnaround though, a period that saw him outqualify Ocon five times in a row before last GP, and Alonso scored about 87% of his championship points in the last six races as well, compared to 70% of all points for Ocon scored during the same stage of this season (even counting the latter’s maiden Formula 1 win within it, which alone amounts to almost two thirds of his points in the entire season, having only one other points finish to show for his last six races likewise, at the British GP). In races that both Alpines saw the chequered flag this season, Ocon finished ahead of Alonso five times whilst for three times it was the Spaniard leading the team home, but those three races were among the last five ones up to the current stage of the championship against a single race in which Ocon came ahead during the same period.
      Your weird claim the Alonso has skills but lacks speed, whatever it means, isn’t supported by the smallest shred of evidence either. Fernando is leading Esteban by a small margin in qualifying intra-team fight overall, but with a strongly favourable recent record against his teammate. Something similar happens with race pace, which you said Alonso doesn’t have it good enough like if you hadn’t been watching any races lately. Across the whole season the aggregate gap between the Alpine cars, both finishing, is (+6.432s) Alonso/Ocon, which puts both drivers close but Alonso behind. However, this stat, just like races finished ahead, doesn’t count races in which one driver finished and the other didn’t, what makes a lot of difference. Remember that Ocon leads Alonso 5-3 in races both finished, but in all remaining races (for the Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Austrian GPs) the Príncipe das Astúrias was in fact ahead of his teammate before any issues that caused retirements for one of the Alpine cars occured, so it could easily be 6-5 in favour of Alonso on merit. As such the aggregate gap will have the same problem of lacked pieces of data on gaps that don’t exist because of retirements, but anyway Alonso’s race pace has been stronger than Ocon’s by a significant margin recently. For the last five races it amounts to (-31.843s) Alonso/Ocon, which in average is about -7.96 seconds per race (excluding the Austrian II race that had only one Alpine car finishing), and again, even taking into account the chaotic Hungarian race that Esteban deservedly won, even though he wouldn’t have clinched the win if hadn’t enjoyed way better luck than Fernando in the start, and among other things if he hadn’t had a big help precisely from Nandito’s strong race pace to delay Hamilton for 10 laps. Despite being outqualified and outraced in the Hungarian GP, Alonso had set the best qualifying lap time for Alpine (Q2) plus had better pace despite finishing behind, and the proof of that is the fact for which as soon as he was free from Latifi he started to slash the gap to Ocon in the lead. So he was everything but outperformed by Ocon last GP, like he hadn’t been outperformed in the most recent ones as well. If you say a driver that is doing this sort of stuff Fernando has been capable of lately doesn’t have enough race pace, either you don’t know stats and data very well or you’re pretending he has a Mercedes on his hands. And if you say he doesn’t have speed, then it’s your unfathomably biased opinion of what speed in Formual 1 should be. Because if he’s already doing the best he can with the machinery offered to him, one of the most solid and impressive drivers of the grid once more and using his experience to help him score the nearly absolute maximum of points possible (as for how many other drivers on the current grid would have scored 33 points in only 6 races with a lowly midfield 7th fastest Alpine?), could he ever have achieved that if he had slow race pace or not enough speed? Only a mind too weak to grasp Formula 1 details could have come up with it, someone who doesn’t watch the sport but even then comments about it, and in case of watching, that’s even worse, as it’s a waste of time to be following something that it doesn’t get at all.

  4. Lopes da Silva
    8th August 2021, 14:57

    Schumacher, Alonso and Raikkonen are in a league of their own: what can a 40yo drivers achieve. For many, many years, since the full professionalization and the increase of G-forces, we would not hear from drivers in their forties. Alan Jones was a mess. Nigel Mansell can be proud as he achieved a pole position and a win as a 40yo, but we know that his 1994-95 stint was lacklustre. I though it was very interesting to see Schumacher in Mercedes and he performed as I expected – I was not expecting to watch the 2000-Schumacher then. If we compare Schumacher’s over-40 with other drivers, he stands well above, even if he did not got a pole or a win like Mansell. (Mansell got that pole and win because Schumacher was below par on that weekend, by the way).

    Kimi may haven’t impressed by being at the end of the field, but one wouldn’t say he hasn’t merited his seat (until RBRing clash with Vettel). He very much ended Giovinazzi’s hopes of someday to get into a top team.

    Now it’s Alonso’s turn to mix in this 40yo highly exclusive field. Let’s see how far can he go.

    1. You had the right expectations, I expected better at first because I didn’t know well of age related decline, f1 metrics, a site for mathematical model analysis about team mate comparison, agrees with you, also let’s not forget schumacher got a “pole” in monaco 2012, he had the best time, so even if he had a 5 place penalty from the previous race a best time in quali still matters.

      I wouldn’t say schumacher was subpar in adelaide 1994, he qualified 2nd against a competitive williams and took the lead and held hill behind for almost half a race till that mistake, but yes, no way mansell would’ve won if nothing happened to schumacher and hill, he was almost 1 min behind, hill managed to reach the pit lane to try and repair the car with a broken wishbone before mansell took the lead!

      Alonso is still doing very well definitely, he was probably as good as schumacher at his peak, plus he kept racing in other series meanwhile, which ofc helps him now, raikkonen started at a lower level in his main career, but yes, he kept being decent for longer than I would’ve expected, I think he’s dropping off now though and becoming one of the worst current drivers, when you don’t correct for age difference.

    2. There was also the accident where Kimi drove into the back of his teammate in Portugal, which many felt was a fairly clumsy error on his part.

      I would like to point out that whilst you mention Jones, you could have noted that Andretti did step in for Ferrari in 1982 in his early 40’s and was still quite competitive, given his unfamiliarity with the car as well.

  5. “Alpine doubt first win” stop being obtuse. Alpine is nothing more than a corporate rebranding exercise of the Enstone based team in Oxfordshire that runs Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance F1 program. yes it is technically alpines first win but you word this article like they a small French privateer who won against all odds and not a corporate re branding exercise of a multi billion euro French conglomerate with one of the finest f1 technical talents on the grid at Enstone who run the ‘team’.

    Again congratulations to Ocon and his hollow fluke win, finishing first when all of the top runners crashed out or at the back of the grid inst an amazing accomplishment no matter how much the F1 press and Renault marketing department try to paint it as one

    1. but you word this article like they a small French privateer who won against all odds

      Strange the things people think to see.

      1. Indeed erikje can’t say that was what I got from the article either.
        In the end the team we sort of got used to being a bit disappointing and inconsistent got everything right on Sunday, car, team, luck, and the drivers showed their best.

        Seems reasonable for them to be happy with the result, and their efforts in bringing that home, without seeing it as a big breakthrough,and with things to learn and improve. Not sure where the problem is with the article then.

      2. This @ccpbioweapon guy comments about Formula 1 very often but doesn’t get at all how the sport works. @fooli0saurus is an specialist in comparision. This green empty-headed is as bad or worse than that @no_named bug guy whose every new comment is an utterly nonsense only worth of waste. Must be sad to watch for hours stuff that you don’t even make an effort to grasp (assuming this one actually watches races), and always make the same shallow and repetitive comments over and over again.

        “Alpine doubt first win” stop being obtuse. Alpine is nothing more than a corporate rebranding exercise of the Enstone based team in Oxfordshire that runs Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance F1 program. yes it is technically alpines first win but you word this article like they a small French privateer who won against all odds and not a corporate re branding exercise of a multi billion euro French conglomerate with one of the finest f1 technical talents on the grid at Enstone who run the ‘team’.

        Nobody said Alpine was poor. That’s just their maiden win after Renault regrouped in the form of Alpine. Same factory, new team. Everybody knows they have Renault’s heritage but it’s not a given for any success (if it was they wouldn’t have spent years without a Formula 1 race win), that’s why their victory was a surprise. It’s not that hard to understand.

        Again congratulations to Ocon and his hollow fluke win, finishing first when all of the top runners crashed out or at the back of the grid inst an amazing accomplishment no matter how much the F1 press and Renault marketing department try to paint it as one

        Like if a top car didn’t flatter any driver, handily given them advantage to easily score big points and wins. This logic give us such outcome like Bottas being better than Leclerc: it puts a driver in his worst season as a top team driver who had been always far from brilliant anyway ahead of one who despite making some costly mistakes in doing a terrific job for Ferrari. Even with a clearly underwhelming record of 7 points finishes out of 11 races in a Mercedes (Alonso has one more driving the lowly midfield Alpine car for comparision), he’s still up there fighting for 3rd place in the standings, so he’s actually the one terribly flattered. If the Mercedes car improves just a little more, Bottas would likely pass Norris in the WDC, even if the latter keeps his amazing consistency on, despite driving for the upper midfield team McLaren. And we’re not even talking too much about further slower cars. Foolish approach number 1 sin for a Formula 1 fan is taking results literally as the only measure for everything. It just shows laziness to understand what happens in quali and races, and the sport as a whole. So I still remain unimpressed that the vast majority of fans who are this level of dumb are #LH44 fans.

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