With the A521 showings signs of improvement from the start of the season, Executive Director Marcin Budkowski looks ahead to the Monaco Grand Prix and the team's ambitions for the spectacular street event.
How exciting is it for Formula 1 to race in Monaco again?
Marcin Budkowski: It's great to have Monaco back on the calendar. It has a different feel to any other place we visit with the street environment, the location by the sea and the port with all the yachts. It is such a special place for every F1 fan and a circuit all race team members enjoy going to, and it should be even more enjoyable this year since we didn't race here last season.
Will Monaco suit the A521 package?
MB: The A521 is generally better suited to low-speed corners, even if we've improved it since the beginning of the season across medium and high-speed corners too. Generally, though, Monaco is all about downforce, mechanical grip and traction, but also places a high emphasis on the drivers. It's a circuit where it takes drivers time to get used to driving so close to the guardrails and finding the ability within themselves to push the limits a little bit further in every single lap, but without exceeding them as the sanction is immediate. It's a track where the driver really makes a difference in Formula 1.
How important will qualifying be on Saturday?
MB: There isn't a circuit more important for qualifying than Monaco because it's very difficult to overtake during the race. We've been in good form in qualifying at the last two events and we'll be focused on keeping this good momentum and qualifying both cars as high as possible on the grid.
What did the team learn from Portugal and Spain?
MB: The last two rounds were very encouraging after a difficult start of the season. Our race in Barcelona didn't go exactly as we hoped, but we confirmed that we have improved the car thanks to a continuous stream of developments and experiments coming from both factories. For Monaco, we have another small aerodynamic update to the car. We also gained some further understanding of our package, which will hopefully allow us to further improve our performance in the next events.
It was a bittersweet outing in Barcelona for Esteban Ocon after qualifying fifth and finishing ninth in the race. The Frenchman was left wanting more as he aims for better on the special streets of Monaco for the return of the legendary Grand Prix.
What do you like about Monaco?
MB: Monaco is a special place. Whenever you think of Formula 1, you also think of Monaco. It's a privilege to drive a Formula 1 car around the streets there, and I'm very excited to do it again this year. I really like the location, all the boats in the harbour, the sea sparkling in the sun and the atmosphere. Everything about it makes it so incredible.
How will you approach the weekend?
EO: It's been a while since I've raced in Monaco, back in 2018, which is the same for Fernando actually. I think it'll take us a little bit of time to get back up to speed and find the limits during practice. It's the most challenging circuit of the year for a driver. You have to be on it and have confidence in the car. We head there this year on the back of two good performances - especially in qualifying - in Portugal and Spain, which shows how our car has clearly improved.
What are your main assessments of the upgraded A521 at recent races?
EO: We're continuing to develop the car and make improvements and, as a driver, that's good news. Spain showed what we're capable of achieving, but it also showed what we can do to find more. Our race pace needs to be stronger if we're to capitalise on our qualifying performances. That said, qualifying is so important in Monaco and we'll be aiming to qualify as high up the grid as possible in order to be in that mix for big points.
Fernando Alonso is set to return to the adrenaline pumping streets of Monte Carlo this weekend for his seventeenth appearance in Formula 1 racing around the tight and twisty, yacht-lined circuit.
How do you feel ahead of your return to the Monaco Grand Prix?
Fernando Alonso: There really isn't a race like it and I'm looking forward to being there again this weekend. I've had two wins at Monaco in Formula 1 and I enjoy the strategic element of Sundays here. Qualifying will be very important, just as it was in Spain, so we need to work on maximising our one lap potential to make sure both cars do well on Saturday. Traffic management will also be key here. I'm looking forward to getting back to business this weekend.
How do you look back on the mixed result in Spain that saw you nearly pull off the one stop strategy?
FA: We gambled and it didn't work out for us. Now we've had time to analyse the race and look over the data, the one stop strategy was probably too optimistic. Starting in tenth position on a circuit that is very hard to overtake on meant we had to try something different, so it was worth a go. Nevertheless, the weekend as a whole was positive. Our car performance seemed to carry over from Portugal, which shows our developments have worked. We arrive in Monaco feeling positive.
What is special about the Monaco Grand Prix?
FA: It's a very challenging circuit and with the barriers either side of you for the entire lap is a constant reminder you can't make a mistake. You have to concentrate so hard for the entire race distance. But this is what we live for as a Formula 1 driver and I enjoy that thrill you have with the sharp turns and bumps at every corner. The set-up around this circuit is also unique in that it can't really be compared to any other track. There aren't many straights and the corners require a car to be tuned with maximum downforce.