Formula 1 is one of the only sports where, before the season has started, many of its competitors acknowledge that they have no shot at winning, a brutal honesty about the haves and have-nots in the most prestigious racing series in the world. This year, Alpine’s sporting director is happy to keep up with tradition.
“[Alpine driver Fernando Alonso] is still not wondrously happy, still wants to go faster, still finding problems with the car, but he is much happier, of course,” explained [sporting director Alan Permane].
“He drove with very heavy fuel for a lot of the day and you’ll see a jump in laptime. We put some new C3 tyres on later in the day and he said ‘wow this car is fast.’
“So the drivers are, I wouldn’t say they are ecstatic, and we’re not expecting to go out and put it on pole, but I’m hoping that we will be in the mix and certainly fighting for Q3.”
This year, rules changes are meant to make teams more competitive, so, in theory, you’re not really supposed to be saying that you know your car might not be good enough to finish top ten in qualifying, even for a team whose drivers finished 10th and 11th last year for the championship. That’s because, for now, teams are still supposed to be pretending that the rules changes will have a significant impact on proceedings, and not, you know, with Mercedes and Red Bull bossing everyone again.
Which might actually be the case! But another thing F1 people are saying is that we simply won’t know until the first race in Bahrain this weekend, or even at qualifying before. And along with Alpine saying it might not be all that competitive this year, the noise out of other teams has been familiar as well, with Ferrari looking strong and Mercedes looking weak and haters accusing Mercedes of sandbagging. All typical week-before-the-first-F1-race things. I’m glad the actual racing is almost back, too.