Rebranded with a new name and sporting a signature blue livery, the Renault-owned Alpine F1 team look ahead to the second race of the 2021 season. Drivers Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso and executive director Marcin Budkowski shed light on what they expect from the Imola Grand Prix weekend.
Ocon, who is in his second year at the Enstone-based team, said:
“Imola is a classic racetrack. Returning there last season was nice as it feels so historic and old school with its deep racing roots. It’s a circuit I enjoy racing at."
Having raced before at Imola in his junior formula years, the French Alpine F1 driver said:
“I won the 2014 European Formula 3 Championship there with a win and a podium, which was very special. Italy is also close to me having lived there for many years and I always look forward to racing there whether it’s in Monza, Mugello or Imola!”
Two-time world champion, and the more experienced of the two Alpine drivers, Fernando Alonso, had previously raced at Imola between 2001 and 2006 when it was called the San Marino Grand Prix. Speaking about the weekend ahead, the Spaniard said:
“I do like the Imola racetrack and I was glad to see it return to Formula 1 last year. It threw up an exciting race in 2020 and I think some of the changes to the circuit since I raced here over ten years ago has improved the racing.”
Speaking about expectations at the Imola Grand Prix, Alonso said:
“It’s also different to be in Europe so early in the season, we usually arrive a little later in the year when the continent is going through its summertime.”
He also reflected on his past success at the track, saying:
“I have some good memories here particularly in 2005 when we won the race and later took the championship that year.”
When questioned about Alpine's overall progress, Marcin Budkowski said:
“We left Bahrain feeling disappointed by not scoring points. The Bahrain race weekend confirmed some of the weaknesses of our package, which we’re working hard to improve and gain the few tenths of a second that we are currently missing to fight at the front of the midfield.”
Alpine to bring upgrades to Imola
However, looking ahead to the Imola GP weekend, Alpine's Executive Director had some positive news to share:
"We have an aerodynamic upgrade package coming to the car for this Grand Prix. In addition, we have some test items to assess during Friday practice, which will help define further upgrades planned over the next few races.”
Currently, the Alpine F1 team car has intrigued many with its enormous and bulky ‘airbox’ design. However, it is anticipated to be a decent competitor in the midfield, with Alonso behind its wheel.
The Spaniard’s streak of zero Q3 appearances since Monaco 2018 was broken in the last race in Bahrain. However, he couldn't capitalize on the race due to a sandwich wrapper stuck in his brake duct, which caused him to retire.
Ideally, Imola should be an interesting test to see where Alpine lies in the midfield pecking order.
Also read: 5 key storylines before the Imola Grand Prix