Alpine drivers respond following back-row lockout at Bahrain Grand Prix

Henry Valantine
Alpine driver Pierre Gasly in Bahrain.

Alpine started the season on the back foot, and major changes have already taken place.

Alpine drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon are keeping faith in their team after locking out the back row for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday.

Ocon and Gasly were both knocked out in Q1 after qualifying 19th and 20th respectively on Friday, with worries from testing about the pace of the A524 coming true in Bahrain.

While one circuit does not necessarily prove they are the slowest car in the field, with plenty of different kinds of circuits to come, a back-row lockout was not the way they will have wanted to start the year.

Alpine drivers keeping ‘chin up’ following early Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying exit

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

Ocon took to team radio to voice his support after getting knocked out in Q1, telling his team: “Only round one, only round one. We keep pushing. There’s a race tomorrow as well. I’ve got faith in you guys.”

With upgrades already planned for his car, he explained that there is a waiting game potentially before their fortunes turn around.

When asked about his role in team morale after qualifying, Ocon told media including PlanetF1.com: It’s super important, for sure.

“We don’t like the situation as a whole. No-one likes to be at the back. We are all competitors in this team and it’s very important to be united, to keep the chin up and move forward.

“This team, some years ago, they created a winning car and those ideas were made in the same places that we use today, Viry and Enstone.

“So, we can be repeating all these things, and I trust the team to be making a step forward.

“Obviously, today, the reality is that we lack pace, especially on short runs. We will see tomorrow exactly, on a longer run where we are – I think we could be closer to the others in that side. So let’s see, let’s have a clean race and let’s keep pushing for next week to try and find ideas to optimise the car more.”

But given the closeness in proximity to the rest of the field, Ocon explained that the A524 within itself is not a “horrible” car to drive, despite being able to feel where the car is not quite optimised yet.

“I can feel the limitation, that’s for sure,” he elaborated. “But, you guys could expect that it was horrible to drive or something like this – it wasn’t.

“I think, with the sort of choices and how we’ve progressed through testing and through all the practice sessions, it was okay to drive.

“Unfortunately, yes, there are some areas that we are weak that we didn’t manage to fix and remains an issue, and those are the ones that we’re working on.”

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For Gasly, he also started last year’s edition of the Bahrain Grand Prix in P20 and believes the same result this time around was to be expected, after the team’s findings from testing.

But with upgrades already in the works, he is hoping for a turnaround later in the season.

“I think it’s very clear where we’ve got to make the improvements,” Gasly told media including PlanetF1.com.

“Fortunately, it doesn’t come as a surprise to us that we’re lacking performance, and then, for the time being, we’ve got to make the best out of what we’ve got.

“So, still a shame, because in that last Q1 [run], didn’t manage the traffic well, everyone was queuing up and we were the last car on track, and I ended up pushing flat out on my out-lap to make it past the line.

“So [it] feels like we could have potentially got a shot at Q2, but in the bigger picture, we’re still far away from where we want to be and we’ll have to be patient until the upgrades are coming.”

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