The team secured a double points finish in Japan last time out. Bruno Famin reflects on Suzuka and previews this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix, the first of three Sprint events across the next four Grands Prix.
What is your review of the Japanese Grand Prix?
We left Japan with both drivers in the points, meaning we scored across both races in the recent Asian double header. We recovered from both cars exiting Q2 on Saturday and converted tough starting spots into double points. Esteban was caught up in a start melee and that is common when you start in the middle of the grid. While he did a good job to climb back to the points, we must do a better job and strive to have both cars in Q3 to be better placed on the grid and avoid these types of incidents.
What is your reflection on the team orders during the race?
Our priority, first and foremost, is to score as many points as possible at any given race weekend. We saw the opportunity for Pierre, with fresher tyres, to try to fight for eight place. We had to try. Our communication with him may not have been optimal and in the future we will make sure that it is. Both drivers are clearly motivated for success and maximising the team result and I’m happy this is the case.
What is the aim for Qatar?
We must aim to continue scoring as many points as possible. This weekend in Qatar there are two opportunities for points with the Sprint race on Saturday. Our single lap pace is an area for us to improve as has been evidenced at recent events. On Friday we need to start strongly, aim to have both cars in a good set-up window and to have both drivers comfortable and dialled in right from FP1 before an important Qualifying session in the evening.
It ain’t over til it’s over
Esteban Ocon recovered from a Lap 1 incident, and subsequent puncture, in Suzuka to drive his way to a deserved two points at the chequered flag. Esteban previews Formula 1’s return to Qatar for the first time since 2021.
How do you reflect on the last couple of races for the team?
It was generally a busy but positive couple of weeks for us. Double points on the board last race and some encouraging signs across two different circuits and conditions in Singapore and Suzuka. Credit to the entire team at the track and in Enstone and Viry for delivering upgrades and slick execution towards these results. We are working hard to avoid any further issues within our control that could affect our weekends and we will keep pushing to achieve good results in these last few races of the 2023 season.
What is the team morale heading into Qatar?
I would say team morale is good at the moment. I spent a couple of days at the factory just after Japan doing some work in the simulator and having various meetings with the engineers. I can see that everyone is motivated to perform and is working hard to finish the 2023 season on a high. On a personal note, I focused on physical preparation and also took the time to participate in a demo run in a rally car at the Rallye Coeur de France, which was really good fun. Right now, our focus is to prepare this race as best as possible and carry the momentum of the last couple of races into the Qatar Grand Prix weekend. Personally, I cannot wait to be back in the car and fight for more good results alongside the team.
What are your thoughts on the Losail International Circuit?
It’s nice to come back to Qatar having not raced there for a couple of years. We have good memories from that weekend as a team in 2021. On my side, I like this track as I think it has a nice flow to it, with a lot of medium and high-speed corners. And when you add the long straight, I think it offers a lot of flexibility in terms of set-up options for all teams, which means that if you get it right, the rewards could be great. I am looking forward to racing there again, push for a good result with the team and put on a good show for the fans!
Pierre Gasly returns to Qatar, a place filled with fond memories for the Frenchman. In 2021, he started from the front row in the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix after hitting the ground running on the fast and flowing Losail Circuit. Pierre was in Doha for the 2022 World Cup Final and now returns in 2023 for the Grand Prix.
What are your thoughts since the last race?
I had mixed emotions after the last race in Japan. Clearly it was a good outcome for the team with both Esteban and I in the points after starting from outside the top ten. It meant I scored across the last double header - that is satisfying - and it’s important we keep the form going. Sometimes emotions do spill over and, of course, as a driver I want to push to the limit and achieve the best result possible. I was definitely frustrated in the aftermath but as a team we were able to discuss the strategy and execution and what is most important is to maximise the overall team result at any given weekend.
How do you reflect on scoring points in the double header?
It was satisfying to come away with solid points from both Singapore and Japan; two very different circuits and varying conditions. While we came away on Sunday with a strong outcome, we again did not maximise our single-lap pace on Saturday and that meant we exited in Q2. It’s something we must work on as we need to benefit from a better starting position to give ourselves the best chance on Sundays. I’ve been in the simulator at Enstone looking to find improvements to make sure we start weekends on the front foot.
How much are you looking forward to Qatar?
I really like Qatar. I was actually there for the Football World Cup last December, so I certainly have fond memories there, even if the Final did not go the way of France. Even so, a fantastic experience to be at one of the biggest sporting events in the world and something I will remember forever. I enjoyed racing in Qatar in 2021. At the time, it was a strong performance where I qualified in fourth and ended up on the front row of the grid for the race. The race did not go to plan, but I like the track as it’s fast and flowing with overtaking possible. We have the Sprint Race on Saturday – that went well for us in Spa – so it’s important to come out the blocks quickly and be comfortable with the car right from Friday Practice.
Qatar Grand Prix Factfile
Drivers/Team Facts and Stats:
• Pierre Gasly started on the front row for the first time in his career at the 2021 Qatar GP, the 200th front row start for a French driver in F1 and the first since Romain Grosjean at the 2012 Hungarian GP.
• Alpine were on the podium in the only previous Qatar GP in 2021 with Fernando Alonso finishing third. Esteban qualified ninth, making up four places in the race to finish in fifth and bring home double points for the team.
• Alpine were one of only three teams to get both cars into Q3 at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix in 2021. The others were Mercedes and AlphaTauri with Pierre Gasly lining up on the front row.
• As one of six night races on the 2023 F1 calendar over 500 kilometres of wiring is used to help illuminate Lusail International Circuit for the Qatar Grand Prix.
• Adding permanent outdoor lighting in 2008 Lusail International Circuit held the record as the largest lit venue in the world for a year, until Yas Marina Circuit claimed the title at its debut during the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Further Facts and Stats:
• This weekend is scheduled to be Pierre Gasly’s 125th Grand Prix start, becoming the 57th driver to reach that milestone, and the ninth from France. The eighth French driver to get to 125 was current teammate Esteban Ocon, only three races ago!
• Pierre Gasly’s first-ever points in a Sprint Race came when he finished third in the Spa sprint event on the Saturday of the Belgian GP weekend. It ushered in a run that has seen him take his three best results of the season in the last five race weekends (including a podium finish in the Dutch GP)
• Esteban is seeking his 50th point-scoring weekend for the Enstone team this weekend, 40 of which have been under the Alpine name.