Alpine F1 Team lines up with Esteban Ocon ninth and Fernando Alonso eleventh for the final race of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, after a closely fought qualifying session at the picturesque Yas Marina Circuit. The result is pending several investigations by the race Stewards which could impact both Alpine drivers’ starting position for tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Q1 saw both Alpine drivers progress to the next session comfortably, after Esteban finished tenth using one set of new Softs on a 1min 23.764secs, and Fernando was a tenth down on his team-mate in twelfth, having also used one set of the red striped tyres. Esteban and Sebastian Vettel ran close during the session and the Frenchman remains under investigation for potentially impeding the German on the exit of the main straight.
Onto Q2 and both drivers fitted Softs, with their initial attempts seeing them slot into seventh and eighth. Armed with another pair of new Softs, Esteban managed to improve on his final run and edged into Q3 in ninth position on a 1min 23.420secs.
Fernando couldn’t follow suit and exited qualifying by the smallest of margins, after he encountered a slow-moving McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, who was still on his preparation lap in the final corners of the circuit. The sequence, which is currently under investigation, left the Spaniard unable to improve in eleventh.
In Esteban’s eleventh Q3 appearance of 2021, he was armed with two sets of new Softs. His first attempt saw him slot neatly into eighth on a 1min 23.406secs, three tenths away from the top four. In his final attempt, Esteban improved with a 1min 23.389secs, but he eventually dropped down to ninth.
Pending the results of the investigations by the race Stewards, Fernando will have a free tyre choice for tomorrow’s 58-lap race, while Esteban is due to start on the fifth row of the Abu Dhabi grid.
Q1: Esteban P10, 1:23.764 Fernando P12, 1:23.846
Q2: Esteban P9, 1:23.420 Fernando P11, 1:23.460
Q3: Esteban P9, 1:23.389
Esteban Ocon, #31, A521-04, Q: P9, 1:23.389, FP3: P12, 1:24.834
“I think it’s positive today. I’m happy to be in Q3 again in ninth place, which was probably the maximum we could achieve. Everything was there, we were improving run by run, little bits at a time, so there was not much more left. Overall, it’s positive to be in the top ten for tomorrow’s race and happy to end the year – from a qualifying perspective – with this performance. We chose to start on Softs for tomorrow, and I’m sure there’ll be some opportunities ahead. As always, the aim is to score points and we want to finish the season as strong as possible.”
Fernando Alonso, #14, A521-06, Q: P11, 1:23.460, FP3: P15, 1:25.094
“The car felt quite good so it’s a shame to miss out on Q3 after the issues at the end. The out-lap was wild in Q2 and there seemed to be no rules. It reminded me of what happened in Austria where there were penalties given out. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone to referee this. I expect we might climb a few places but let’s see where we start in the end. I am happy that I have the free tyre choice so it gives us the opportunity to play with our strategy a little and score some points tomorrow.”
Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director: “It was a very close qualifying today with different tyre strategies between teams and lots of traffic to manage. We are a bit disappointed with ninth and eleventh today, especially given the pace we showed yesterday. The drivers were less happy with the car in Free Practice 3 earlier in the afternoon but we were hoping that with a cooler track they would find better grip again. Fernando was improving in his last attempt in Q2 but met Daniel (Ricciardo) in the last corner and that compromised his lap, missing Q3 by a mere 0.012secs. Esteban qualified in ninth after a very well executed qualifying and extracted all he could from a slightly compromised car. Today’s result puts us in a decent position for tomorrow’s race. Esteban will start with Soft tyres and Fernando has free choice of tyres. It’s all to be played for and points will be there for the taking.”
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