Alpine F1 Team extended its points scoring run to fourteen Grands Prix in a row. This was thanks to Fernando Alonso's sixth place finish in Sochi with the Spaniard having been running in the podium places before the rain fell in the closing stages of an unforgettable race. The 2021 F1 season has already seen Alpine F1 Team on the top step of the podium following Esteban Ocon's stunning Hungarian Grand Prix victory. On that day, Fernando Alonso had a pivotal role to play in the way he kept Lewis Hamilton behind him for more laps than the seven-time Drivers' World Champion would have liked. Speaking to motorsport.com, Alonso praised his teammate saying that Esteban Ocon has been a 'very fast reference' which has helped the two-time F1 Drivers' Champion get up to speed in his return to F1.
Such is the form of Fernando Alonso at present, that his post-race comments to the media after this year’s Russian Grand Prix showed he knows he is challenging at the sharp end of the field once again.
“We finished sixth, but I think third place is more of a true reflection of our finishing position today. It all came down to luck in the end with the rain coming so late on…Nevertheless, sixth is a good result for us and we deserved it. We looked competitive throughout the race, so there are lots of positives to take away.”
However, it has not always been this way throughout the season and when discussing his form with motorsport.com, the two-time F1 Drivers’ Champion explained the key role his teammate Esteban Ocon has played.
“It has been very close this year,” Alonso said when asked about the level of competition he has been involved in after returning to F1 having had two years away. “At the beginning of the year, it was not even close. I was not up to speed, for sure. So, it was very helpful to have Esteban on top of his game.
Such an honest reflection is not a surprise to hear due to Fernando Alonso never being afraid to speak his mind.
“To try to get up to speed with a very fast reference was a good thing for me. I could make my adaptation a little bit shorter thanks to Esteban as well, to have that reference.” Alonso stated.
Such goodwill is not a one-way street. The embrace seen between both Alpine drivers after Esteban Ocon’s surprising (but well-deserved) victory in Hungary showed that the Frenchman knew the part Alonso had played.
“He has [helped make] a really good environment in the team now, a good atmosphere,” Ocon confirmed to the media. “I cannot ask for anything more at the moment. Let’s try to push together to help Alpine in the constructors’ championship, it's going to be very tight with Aston, with AlphaTauri as well. So, we need the best of both in every weekend.”
The next Grand Prix on the calendar is the Turkish Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso’s last visit to Istanbul Park with F1 was ten years ago. However, the Spaniard’s race there from 2006 has been going viral this past week in the build up to Sunday. On this occasion, Fernando Alonso had a titanic duel with the legendary seven-time Driver’s F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher, an event which he recalls fondly.
“I have some nice memories of the Turkish Grand Prix. It's a circuit with a good mix of high-speed corners and overtaking opportunities. Turn 8 is a unique challenge and I look forward to tackling this corner in a modern-day Formula 1 car. I had a fun battle with Michael [Schumacher] there in 2006. He was right behind my gearbox exiting the final corner on the last lap. That was just one of a number of on track battles we had that season. It's a circuit that I enjoy racing at, and I look forward to returning there once again.” Fernando Alonso told the media in Alpine’s preview of the Turkish Grand Prix.
With the run that Fernando Alonso is on, there will be many a motorsport fan also excited to see the former champion return to Istanbul Park once again.
However, with Esteban Ocon having finished just outside of the points at the Turkish Grand Prix in 2020, he will be keen to get on the scoreboard this time round. On that day, the Frenchman finished behind his teammate of the time Daniel Ricciardo and as such will want to avoid a repeat with his 2021 teammate.
There are just 7 races remaining of the 2021 F1 season and Esteban Ocon may have been Fernando Alonso’s ‘very fast reference’ but it looks as though the victor of this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix will need to go very fast himself to keep his confident teammate behind him.
Either way, with two in form drivers, it will be Alpine F1 who benefit overall in their intense F1 Constructor’s battle as they seek to hold on to fifth in the standings throughout the rest of the reason. As for 2022, it may not be a surprise to see Alpine F1 (and in particular Fernando Alonso) looking at those on the grid in front of them rather than behind.