alpine alonso 2021 bahrain grand prix

Alonso: I’m still not at 100 percent

alonso 2021 bahrain grand prix

Fernando Alonso is very much back in Formula 1, but the Spaniard had little chance to shine at the sharp end of the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix with an Alpine that looks destined for the wrong end of the midfield.

After the 2018 season finale in Abu Dhabi, Alonso ditched F1, and with it put an end to a miserable final few years with McLaren, to explore other motorsport adventures. After the huge success during this furlough from the top flight, he was finally where he belongs again.

However, the Alpine team of today is a far cry from the precocious Renault team of 2005 and 2006 with whom the veteran won his two F1 titles with.

But, for now, Alonso is taking the blame: “I’m still not at 100 percent.”

“I won some of the duels but not others and I need a bit more rhythm and confidence to get the most out of the brakes, the acceleration… the car. I have a lot of room for improvement. I made little mistakes like not getting the car in the grid very well at the second pitstop.”

During his two year break from F1, Alonso was a busy man, among his exploits were winning the Daytona 24H, Le Mans 24H twice and adding the WEC title to his two F1 championships.

Thus track time did not elude him during his F1 hiatus and was insistent before the first race that he was ready as can be for his return.

But after the race at Sakhir on Sunday, in which the #14 car was in just about every midfield battle, he was satisfied with his performance despite the Alpine crying ‘enough” and forcing the driver to park it on lap 34.

Nevertheless, Fernando saw the bright side of his first weekend back in F1: “It was a good day for me all the same. For the anthem, the formation lap, the grid… there were tough moments, those first laps, fighting with the other cars, the adrenaline…

“Even though you’re battling with the cars in front, you have the energy, it gets your heart beating quickly. It’s a shame not to be on the track longer and finish the race, which meant it wasn’t possible to finish in the points.”

A day earlier, Alonso showed what he can do by qualifying the Alpine in eighth place while teammate Esteban Ocon was only good for 16th; the 39-year-old driver nearly a full second up on the 24-year-old one.

Speaking to DAZN after qualy, Alonso said, “And that’s when I’m rusty… two years,” Alonso joked with Carlos Sainz after practice on Friday night. It looks like that rust has already worn off.

“You never know where you stand in the first round of qualifying and we weren’t expecting anything special either. Each time I stopped in the box, I looked up at the monitor and didn’t know if I was fifth or 17th.

“In practice, we felt like we had a bit more in reserve than our rivals, but we were also two and a half seconds slower in some of practice and we didn’t have two seconds up our sleeves.

“It’s the little things – dealing with the pressure, the adrenaline, not getting ahead of yourself… without promising anything but trying to execute the race in the best way we can.

“If that’s enough to finish seventh, brilliant. If we come 12th, it’s because there were 11 cars and 11 drivers that were quicker than us,” added Alonso whose comeback scorecard from Bahrain 2021 reads: DNF.

The team’s Executive Director Marcin Budkowski was impressed with their ‘new’ man: “Both cars made a good start and gained some places on the first lap with Fernando holding firm in the top ten.

“After his first stop we had a small issue that forced us to reduce the performance of the car, then after the second stop, a sandwich wrap paper got stuck inside the rear brake duct of Fernando’s car.

“This led to high temperatures and caused some damage to the brake system, so we retired him for safety reasons. It was a very unlucky first race for Fernando considering how strong he looked,” added Budkowsi.