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Formula 1

Alpine looks poised to regain respectability at home race

by Edd Straw
3 min read

Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi sees the French Grand Prix as a chance to get back on course to achieve his target of finishing at least fifth in the 2021 Formula 1 constructors’ championship.

Notwithstanding Fernando Alonso’s charge from 10th to sixth in the two-lap dash to the chequered flag in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after the race was stopped, Alpine struggled there and on the streets of Monaco.

It scored only 10 points across those two races as the tracks showcased the Alpine A521’s slow-corner weakness and difficulties in getting front tyres up to temperature.

That meant the team has dropped from fifth to seventh in the points as both Aston Martin and AlphaTauri vaulted ahead.

Rossi hopes that Alpine will be able to recreate its Portuguese Grand Prix form, where Esteban Ocon qualified sixth and he and Alonso finished seventh and eighth, in France.

“I guess we had two very unusual tracks with Baku and Monaco, where we didn’t have a great run of form despite Alonso’s epics in Baku,” said Rossi.

Fernando Alonso Alpine Baku 2021

“So hopefully this track puts us back into more of a Portimao type of performance, which would then get us back on track with the fifth position, I’m assuming.”

It would require an improbable swing in form for Alpine to do better than fifth given Ferrari and McLaren are respectively 69 and 67 points clear.

But the battle for fifth place is still open with AlphaTauri currently holding the position on 39 points, Aston Martin two points further behind and Alpine on 25 points.

Alpine’s weakness overall during the season has been a lack of race pace, with Portugal its strongest weekend but the following race in Spain a struggle.

Although Ocon qualified fifth there, he had to drive well to hang on to ninth place on a one-stop strategy, with Alonso dropping out of the points.

As well as Alpine facing a challenge from an Aston Martin team that was revitalised on the street tracks, Alfa Romeo has also emerged as a threat on race pace. However, Alfa Romeo has scored only two points this season.

Esteban Ocon Alpine Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Spanish Grand Prix 2021 Barcelona

“It’s important to beat whoever is in the way of the fifth position, not necessarily Aston Martin, we want to beat Alfa Romeo consistently, but the idea is to finish at least fifth,” said Rossi.

“We want to carry on the momentum from last year, so at the moment we’re not in the position we want. It’s not what I want for the team – and I guess the team doesn’t want it either.

“So all eyes on at the very least fifth position on the constructors’ standings, and that’s the goal for everyone.”

Fernando Alonso Esteban Ocon Alpine French Grand Prix 2021 Paul Ricard

Alpine had an encouraging first day at Paul Ricard, with Ocon fifth-fastest in FP1, 0.881s off the pace, and Alonso fourth in FP2, 0.468s down.

While its long-run pace was inconclusive given the tricky conditions, Alpine was firmly in the mix in the midfield.

“It does look good at the moment,” said Ocon. “The pace of the car has been pretty strong today.

“It’s only Friday so we need to keep looking at what we can do tomorrow but we still have a few areas that we can do better.

“We look well into the top 10 today with both cars, we look fast on the long run so it’s pretty solid and we are pretty pleased.”

Alonso agreed that the Alpine was “fast” and echoed Ocon’s upbeat tone.

He also admitted it was something of a relief to have such an encouraging day after the struggles of Monaco and Azerbaijan.

“We were questioning ourselves [about] what was happening in Monaco and Baku,” he said.

“We still don’t have all the answers, but it seems more normal, our level of competitiveness here, and this is a positive thing for the rest of the year.”

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