Alpine drivers Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso gave the new Jeddah Corniche Circuit their seal of approval after the opening day of Practice in Saudi Arabia. The Enstone-based team are hoping for another good result this weekend as they look to build upon their 25 point lead over Alpha Tauri in the battle for fifth in the constructors' championship.
The first day of Practice in Jeddah was a good one for Alpine, with Ocon setting the 12th fastest time in the afternoon before improving to sixth in the evening as he completed 51 laps over both sessions.
"It was a good Friday for us today. We gained a good understanding of the new track, which was the main aim for the day. It's certainly not an easy circuit to master as it's very fast and very demanding physically. Above all, I'd say it's tough for mental efficiency and remaining focused for the whole lap, even on the straights where you have to keep an eye on slower cars ahead. You have to be absolutely on it here in every aspect."
"The grip was good from the start, and I was quite impressed with that. We've seen new tracks in the past with poor grip, so it was a nice surprise here to be able to push straight away. Overall, it's a fun place, and the car seemed to go quite well. It is only Friday, but I expect qualifying to be fast and exciting to watch."
Alonso, fresh from his first podium finish in Formula 1 after a seven-year absence from the rostrum, had a solid start to Friday with ninth in FP1. The two-time World champion went even quicker in the evening, finishing his day's work with fifth in FP2, putting him ahead of the Ferraris and McLarens.
"It was a fun day today, and I like the track. Every new track requires a lot of work to go into it, and I think we got through quite a lot today. The circuit feels fast as expected, but it seems to have quite high grip as well, which was a nice surprise, especially coming to a street circuit. Formula 2 helped today by cleaning the tarmac before we drove in the afternoon."
"There are still quite a few unknowns for everybody in terms of setup and we will have to fine tune the cars tonight. I'm optimistic for tomorrow and it should be a good show for everyone."
Alpine’s sporting director Alan Permane was pleased with his team’s running, as he explained why both drivers used all three compounds of tyres.
“It’s been a very productive day. We came here well prepared from our simulation work and hit the ground running. We have worked with all the available tyre compounds today to understand what is best for Saturday and Sunday. There are no real complaints with the cars and both drivers are pretty happy – the circuit looks fun to drive.”
Permane believes that Sunday’s 50 lap race will test the drivers’ mental concentration in what he predicts will be a physically and mentally demanding race.
“One comment, which you don’t often hear in F1, is that it needs a lot of mental concentration. It’s a very demanding track, physically and mentally, so I think the race is going to be long and hard and keeping concentration is going to be key.”