“We lost a few weeks of development and that just transformed into tenths of seconds… We’ve solved our issues so we continue to invest and improve our wind tunnel and fingers crossed, we don’t get issues again next year but certainly it’s up to us to improve our understanding and our development capabilities.”
As for Alonso’s own personal performance, he puts it at, “five out 10 so far, the bare minimum required, but let’s take it one step at a time… I am at a point in my life where I feel good and I feel capable of driving better than ever but that doesn’t mean you don’t find difficulties while entering a new adventure. I was the first to admit I was not 100% in Imola and not comfortable and probably under-performing but it was one race.
“At the end of the year we talk. If I under-perform the whole season and everything was more difficult than I expected, maybe there is a point to really discuss and go deep into the questions of why it is more difficult than previously.”
Budkowski: “In Bahrain, he was right on it straight away and he put the car in Q3 and everybody hailed Fernando’s return and then Imola, it went a bit less smoothly and suddenly everybody is questioning his return. It’s typical Formula 1 and you are only as good as your last race. Fernando was extremely honest. He raised his hand after qualifying in Imola and said: ‘Look, the few tenths that are missing, I’m the one who needs to find them.’
“People forget that these cars are extremely quick, they’re very, very difficult to push to the limit and we are seeing that with drivers that have changed teams over the winter and are struggling a little bit compared to their team-mate. Fernando has been out of it for two years. He’s done a day and a half of testing in Bahrain and straight into racing. But with his experience, his talent and his determination, I have absolutely no doubt he will get back there.”
So the questions – around both car and driver – are hanging in the warm Barcelona air this weekend. Portimão, with its gripless surface and gusty winds, is an unusual track. Barcelona is a much more typical and aerodynamically demanding track. As Alonso himself says, “There was a good level of competitiveness apart from in qualifying for me. Now at Barcelona we need to see if it was a track-specific performance or if it was the truth of the Alpine evolution.”
But regardless of the level of the car, Alonso really needs to be putting together an Ocon-competitive level of performance in qualifying to assuage the doubts. Because there are still doubts there, probably in his own mind as well as ours. My own hunch is that he will overcome them.