Alpine explains disastrous qualifying run in Bahrain

Alpine explains disastrous qualifying run in Bahrain

Alpine F1 had a disastrous qualifying run in Bahrain and according to results, it will take some time to improve the A524’s performance.

Alpine was further out of the running while teams like McLaren and Aston Martin solidified their status as strong contenders in qualifying. The engine manufacturer is in the news for all the wrong reasons once more.

Alpine drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon remain confident with the team after locking out the back row for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday.

Concerns regarding the speed of the A524 in Bahrain came to pass when Ocon and Gasly were eliminated in the first round of qualifying on Friday, having qualified 19th and 20th, respectively.

With a variety of tracks to come, a back-row lockout was not how they would have preferred to begin the year, even though one circuit does not necessarily indicate they are the slowest vehicle in the field.

After being knocked out in Q1, Ocon contacted his fellow team members via team radio to express his support.

“Only round one, only round one. We keep pushing. There’s a race tomorrow as well. I’ve got faith in you guys,” Ocon said via team radio.

He clarified that he has already planned upgrades for his car and that it might take some time before their luck turns around.

“It’s super important, for sure,” Ocon told media after qualifying when asked about his role in team morale. “We don’t like the situation as a whole. No-one likes to be at the back. We are all competitors in this team and it’s very important to be united, to keep the chin up and move forward.

“This team, some years ago, they created a winning car and those ideas were made in the same places that we use today, Viry and Enstone. So, we can be repeating all these things, and I trust the team to be making a step forward.

“Obviously, today, the reality is that we lack pace, especially on short runs. We will see tomorrow exactly, on a longer run where we are – I think we could be closer to the others in that side.

“So let’s see, let’s have a clean race and let’s keep pushing for next week to try and find ideas to optimise the car more.”

Despite being able to sense areas where the car is not yet optimal, Ocon clarified that the A524 is not a “horrible” car to drive in light of its proximity to the rest of the field.

“I can feel the limitation, that’s for sure,” he explained. “But, you guys could expect that it was horrible to drive or something like this – it wasn’t. I think, with the sort of choices and how we’ve progressed through testing and through all the practice sessions, it was okay to drive.

“Unfortunately, yes, there are some areas that we are weak that we didn’t manage to fix and remains an issue, and those are the ones that we’re working on.”

Gasly, who qualified for the Bahrain Grand Prix in P20 last year, thinks that the team’s testing results should have predicted the similar outcome this time around. However, he is anticipating a turnaround later in the season since upgrades are already being prepared.

“I think it’s very clear where we’ve got to make the improvements,” Gasly said after qualifying. “Fortunately, it doesn’t come as a surprise to us that we’re lacking performance, and then, for the time being, we’ve got to make the best out of what we’ve got.

“So, still a shame, because in that last Q1 [run], didn’t manage the traffic well, everyone was queuing up and we were the last car on track, and I ended up pushing flat out on my out-lap to make it past the line.

“So [it] feels like we could have potentially got a shot at Q2, but in the bigger picture, we’re still far away from where we want to be and we’ll have to be patient until the upgrades are coming.”

The French team’s off-track season was tumultuous. Albeit their pace was sufficient for two podiums at least. Whether Alpine F1 can turn around and move up the field is the next logical question to pose.

The Enstone team is hoping to do this, at least in theory. An aggressive development plan can make up for an underwhelming winter, as McLaren demonstrated last season.

Unfortunately, there are no assurances that Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly will make an improvement anytime soon.

The A524 is a completely novel concept for Alpine and its technical team. It will therefore require some time to comprehend how significant improvements can be implemented. However, the budget cap will drastically cut into their leeway. Any errors could ruin their hopes of making a sustainable comeback by 2024.

Furthermore, the A524’s extra weight and underperforming engine come with an almost inherent disadvantage. This implies that the car needs to be upgraded in almost every aspect.

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