Following a subdued start to the season at Bahrain and Imola, the Alpine F1 team bounced back into form for Friday's free practice sessions at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve ahead of Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimão.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso finished the day fifth fastest in FP2m with his team mate Esteban Ocon narrowly behind in sixth place.
Alonso said that he was finally beginning to feel at home in the A521, having returned to the former Renault works team at the start of the season after a two-year sabbatical from F1 racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis.
“It was a good practice day for me and the most comfortable I’ve had this season compared to Bahrain and Imola," he declared.
"I was happy with the setup of the car quite early in the day, so I concentrated mostly on becoming more acclimatised to the circuit and then evaluating the tyres over the two sessions.
"I enjoyed driving the circuit for the first time in a Formula 1 session, but I think traffic could be a challenge tomorrow in qualifying.
It’s an exciting track to drive, that’s for sure," he said. "There is still lots of data for us to analyse, but it’s a good start to the weekend."
Ocon was equally happy by the progress made by the team on Friday.
“It was a pretty solid day for us, especially in terms of mileage," he said. "We completed a lot of laps and that was quite nice. We tested all the tyre compounds and we have a good read on that ahead of the race on Sunday.
"This circuit is certainly a tricky track in terms of grip, but I would say it has improved since last season. It’s still a challenge for us and we’re working hard to get a little bit more grip from the car for tomorrow.”
Alpine's racing director Davide Brivio said it had been a good day for the team. "It is just Friday, though, and we won’t be looking too much into the timesheets," he cautioned.
"We were able to test a few things on each car in the morning, and then we completed our usual long runs in the second session on each tyre to collect data and information for the race.
"The drivers did a good job; it’s Fernando’s first time here in a Formula 1 car, so he was getting used to the track a little bit, and Esteban ran very consistently in both sessions.
"It’s a positive start to the weekend, we’ll keep working hard and see how the next two days unfold.”
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