Following a tricky start to the season for Alpine, despite a double-points scoring finish at Imola, Friday at the Portimao will have surely given them hope for a more competitive weekend as Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon both finished inside the top 6, less than 0.4s off FP2 pace-setter Lewis Hamilton.
The two-time World Champion had difficult Fridays in both Bahrain and Imola but looked far stronger on Friday in Portugal. The 39-year-old felt comfortable today and didn’t need to make big setup changes to his A521. He was the fastest driver in Sector 3 on his way to P5.
“It was a good practice day for me and the most comfortable I’ve had this season compared to Bahrain and Imola,” Alonso said.
''I was happy with the setup of the car quite early in the day, so I concentrated mostly on becoming more acclimatised to the circuit and then evaluating the tyres over the two sessions. There is still lots of data for us to analyse, but it’s a good start to the weekend.
“I enjoyed driving the circuit for the first time in a Formula 1 session, but I think traffic could be a challenge tomorrow in qualifying. It’s an exciting track to drive, that’s for sure.”
Alonso was careful not to get too excited about Alpine’s FP2 pace as fuel loads and engine modes are not run at their maximum on Friday. Nonetheless, he’ll be hoping to make Q3 like he did at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
“Fingers crossed that we can keep the pace tomorrow,” added Alonso. “The positions will not be too different compared to Imola or Bahrain – I don’t think there are any big changes in the order, it’s just a different Friday, a different approach maybe comparing teams but let’s see… But generally a happy Friday, and still more to come tomorrow.”