All ten Formula 1 teams had just three days of pre-season testing for the 2021 season, meaning each driver had just one day and a half to get used to their new challenger. Several drivers switched teams and are still struggling to find the perfect feeling with their car, including Fernando Alonso.
The two time F1 world champion left the circus in 2018 after a disastrous journey with McLaren-Honda and tried other categories, winning races as Daytona 24H, Le Mans 24H and WEC Championship twice. He also competed at the Dakar in 2020, showing what a versatile driver he is, switching different cars in such short times. Despite his success, Fernando struggled to adapt to his new single seater, the A521, Alpine's 2021 car.
These first race weekends are being considered as "test days" for drivers as Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Alonso as well. The Emilia Romagna and Made in Italy Grand Prix gave everyone the opportunity to test the 2021 cars in wet conditions, and a lot can be learned about a F1 car under the rain.
“I’m happy with the learnings. It was the very first time in wet conditions, first time in intermediate conditions, first time in dry conditions only with one narrow dry line," Alonso revealed to RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press.
The Spaniard managed to bring his Alpine to Q3 in Bahrain, but was outqualified by his team mate Esteban Ocon in Italy and had to follow him during the race as well, on a track where, in 2005 against a driver called Michael Schumacher, he conquered one of his thirty-two wins in Formula 1. Something that, in the past, would have really upset a character like Fernando, but the spaniard understands that his issues come from a "lack of confidence" with his car.
“[There are] a lot of lessons to take from today, to analyse. Feeling wise, from lap one to lap 63, I felt 300 percent better in how confident I am with the car. But this cannot be an excuse to say [why] we didn’t perform well, why I didn’t perform well. It doesn’t matter if you have little or no time in the car," said the two-time world champion.
“I’m not surprised, I was expecting exactly what we’re finding now - he continued - I was right behind Esteban today, I was in front of him when I retired the car in Bahrain, with a guy that was performing very well and [has] two years in the team.
“It was my second qualifying here, it was my first race here because in Bahrain I only did 30 laps and I’m more or less where I expected to be. You always want to be more, and higher up, and you want to be a little more confident in the car and probably I was not confident in Bahrain or confident here."
Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz both made mistakes in Imola; Sebastian Vettel is clearly struggling to adapt to the AM21 and Daniel Ricciardo frankly admitted he will give himself at least five races to reach his top performance with McLaren.
“I will not be confident in Portimao - said Alonso - this is not a thing that goes from day to night and then you’re 100 percent, it will take time, but I’m here to work and get better and a race like today helps massively because you can feel the car in very difficult conditions and you can learn a lot more than just a normal race.
“I’ve changed teams many times, I even changed category in motorsport many times and there is always that period of adaptation."