The Formula 1 team that might need the best performance in this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix? That might just be Alpine. After a solid start to the season, back-to-back pointless races left the team looking up as McLaren leapfrogged them in the Constructors’ Standings. The team suffered heartbreak in the closing laps of the Australian Grand Prix, as drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon crashed into each other, knocking the pair out of the race, and out of the points.
Then last week in Azerbaijan, Gasly endured a brutal three days, finishing the Grand Prix in P14. That was one spot ahead of Ocon, who started from pit lane and gambled on a late safety car or red flag, staying on the track during an early safety car to pick up track position rather than come into the pits.
But when that flag never came, Ocon was forced to pit before the final lap of the race, giving up ninth place to end up in P15.
However, if Friday’s first two practice sessions in Miami are any indication, the team could be ready for a bounceback. Ocon finished the first practice session in P10, with Gasly a few spots ahead of him in P6. Then in the second session, Ocon came in ninth, with Gasly two spots behind him.
The team was optimistic in their post-practice assessment.
“Firstly, it’s great to be back driving in this iconic city and it’s always a pleasure racing in the United States. For us, it was a smooth day on track overall and it was good to have two full sessions to work on the set-up of the car. Today was a day of data gathering, and really looking into how the track and surface feel, and how the tyres behave,” said Ocon on Friday.
Ocon addressed the surface, which has been a big factor through the first two practice sessions. “I have to say the organisers did a great job as the tarmac is much better than last year. We still have one more Practice session and some work to do to fine-tune our car before Qualifying,” added the Alpine driver. “I am definitely looking forward to seeing what we can do and hopefully we can be in the mix for a strong result.”
His teammate struck a similar tone.
“It was important for us to have a clean and uneventful day in the car and I think we’re in a decent position ahead of the rest of the weekend. We have a much better read on the car than we did this time last week and the aim now is to push on and execute an even better Saturday,” said Gasly. “We tried a couple of things on set-up, some worked, others not so much, but I have no real complaints at this stage and I feel we can find even more in the car in Practice tomorrow ahead of Qualifying. It’s really good to be back here in Miami at this impressive venue. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow where, of course, the minimum aim has to be reaching Q3.”
Alpine Chief Technical Officer Pat Fry called the session “productive,” and outlined how the team is pleased with the upgrades to the A523. “It’s been a productive Friday for the team today here in Miami and it was good to have two smooth practice sessions where we’ve been able to run to our programme and tick things off our list,” said Fry. “We have another good read on the upgrades from last week, which are in line with our expectations and performing well on the car.”
The team also got a little help in the garage on Friday, courtesy of Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill:
Alpine will hope some of Hill’s speed inside Hard Rock Stadium on NFL Sundays is matched by the A523 on the track this weekend.