Esteban Ocon said Alpine are now in a “position to fight” at the Portuguese Grand Prix after a solid Friday showing.
The midfield battle is tighter than ever in 2021, and so in suffering a slight performance drop Alpine have found themselves struggling to contend with the likes of McLaren and Ferrari ahead.
But the early signs in Portugal are very promising indeed as Fernando Alonso signed off for the day on Friday in P5 with Ocon just 0.015s behind.
McLaren’s Lando Norris has been left fearing for his Q3 chances having seen the early marker laid down by Alpine, and Ocon confirmed that he and his team are “optimistic” for the weekend ahead as they look to fight for major points.
“I think it will be close tomorrow, it will be a tough battle with everybody, looking at how close the times are,” he told reporters in the paddock.
“This track is still a challenge for everybody. The grip has improved compared to last year, but it’s still quite tricky out there. It’s moving quite a lot. It will be a fight. It was good enough for today, but tomorrow will be tight.
“For sure, for sure. It leaves us optimistic. Fernando is very quick as well, so there’s all the reasons we can be very happy about today, and we are in a position to fight tomorrow.
“We are working towards improving the car, understanding and as I said, extract the maximum out of the platform. We are finding little bits here and there constantly, which is very positive.”
Excitement levels? 🎢🙌
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— Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) April 30, 2021
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Alonso told Sky Sports F1 that Friday practice in Portimao was “the most comfortable” session he had enjoyed in the A521, and later informed the assembled press that he had barely made any set-up changes throughout the day.
That being said, he is sceptical of any major swings in the pecking order.
“Obviously it’s only Friday, but we were comfortable from lap one, and we didn’t touch much with the set-up because everything felt reasonably OK,” he explained.
“We have to wait and see tomorrow. I think the positions will not be too different compared to Imola or Bahrain.
“I don’t think there is any big changes in the order. I think it’s just a different Friday, different approach maybe comparing teams, but yeah, let’s see, fingers crossed we can keep this pace tomorrow.”
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