As the Formula 1 circus gets closer to the halfway mark of its calendar, the teams and drivers face Baku and the always promising Azerbaijan GP with upgraded cars, drivers on a high momentum, and a World Championship that’s red hot on the standings.
Friday came and Alpine surprised, as Fernando Alonso finished P5 and P4 in both practice sessions of the day, being just behind Charles Leclerc, Sergio Pérez and Max Verstappen.
The 40-year-old was happy with the performance shown by his challenger but assures: "It’s always tricky in Baku with the windy and fast circuit conditions but I think we had a normal Friday today and we were able to test some of our new items. We still need to optimize a few things on the setup for Qualifying tomorrow".
"We seem fast on the straights and it’s sometimes a setup compromise with this type of circuit.
However, the Spaniard doesn’t take Alpine’s Friday pace for granted.
"However we seem fast today, so we’ll work overnight to ensure we keep this sort of pace tomorrow."
Teammate Esteban Ocon found it impossible not to be optimistic after finishing P9 and P10 the first two practice sessions at Baku.
“It was a decent day for us overall, the car seems competitive after today, so that’s good to see," he said. “The car seems competitive, but we’ll have to put it all together tomorrow."
"Baku is a place where you really need to make the most of these practice sessions and get the laps in. Confidence is key around here, similar to Monaco, and there are many braking points that you need to hit properly."
Alpine's Sporting Director Alan Permane spoke optimistically on how good of a Friday at Baku this one was, as he says the upgrades bought for the car are functioning as planned for the Enstone-based team.
"We brought some upgrades to Baku and everything seems to be working very well.
"The drivers are reasonably happy with the cars and there are still improvements to make of course," he acknowledged. "The two sessions ran as planned, very smoothly. We did our tyre work and have a good understanding on how the car is working, both on high and low fuel,” he concluded.