After a disappointing opening race in Bahrain with a ray of light in Pierre Gasly’s last to P9 performance, Alpine team finally showed up with Esteban Ocon ending the first day fourth fastest on the first practice day for the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
With Gasly not far off in sixth, the only Renault-powered team were the surprise package at the sharp end giving credence to their statements pre-season that they had a handy car in the Alpine A523, their drivers obliging on the night, in Jeddah.
Ocon who ended FP2 four tenths and a bit down on the top time reported on his day: “It’s nice to come back to a track like Jeddah as it’s a really fast and thrilling street circuit, which forces everyone to be on their toes at all times.
“Our Friday was productive where we tried different things, which will help us in both Qualifying and Race conditions. So far, the car feels strong, and I think there is more we can extract ahead of tomorrow evening’s Qualifying.
“The team did a great job today to get through the programme and we will be working hard tonight to be in a good place for tomorrow. All in all, it’s been a good day at the office.,” added the Alpine driver.
Pat Fry: A solid start with more to come
In the sister Alpine, Gasly also relished his first day back at the floodlit venue: “It’s great to be back here in Jeddah at this very fast and exciting race track.
“It’s been a busy day for us as we continue to learn about our 2023 package and, I must say, I’ve been pleased with today’s work. After two weeks in Bahrain, it’s nice to be taking on a new track and a new challenge. It’s very high-speed here and there’s a lot you have to get right to be quick.
“The car feels good, we have a good idea on the set-up direction we want to take and there’s more to come from us this weekend. My focus is on working hard with the engineers to make sure we’re well prepared for Qualifying and returning with a better performance than we showed last time out.”
Probably relieved, Alpine tech boss Pat Fry summed up: “It’s been a reasonable Friday. For us, it’s been interesting to see the car on a completely different circuit to what we’ve seen so far this year, as the characteristics here steer towards lower downforce with lots of high-speed corners.
“We’re pleased with our work today with both drivers offering similar feedback on the directions to take on set-up, which leaves us in decent shape for the rest of the weekend.
“We have plenty of data to work through to prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s Qualifying where we aim for a much-improved performance from Bahrain to set ourselves up for a better Race on Sunday. A solid start with more to come,” added Fry.