After last weekend's first race in Austria, the team is fully focused on improving on its current performance. Chief Race Engineer Ciaron Pilbeam discusses the Styrian Grand Prix, tyres and Guanyu Zhou's Formula 1 practice debut.
How does the team reflect on last weekend's Styrian Grand Prix?
Ciaron Pilbeam: It was a mixed weekend for us. Fernando had a good weekend, especially on Saturday, however, his race was affected by traffic and it was difficult to make progress. Esteban missed out on Q2 by less than a tenth, and that made it very difficult for him to reach the points in the race. The lap-time differences are very small in Austria and we're aiming to find improvements from last weekend to get both cars into the points.
With the tyre compounds a step softer, how will that change the weekend?
CP: We have the C5 compound this week, which we've never had in Austria before, so that brings a bit of an unknown. At a normal race weekend, the Friday plan is fairly standard and the information you need to gather doesn't vary much. That is different this weekend as we already have information on the C3 and C4 and now we need to look at the C5. It will have more grip than the C4 and probably higher degradation as well. We'll need to learn how high the degradation is and whether that pushes you towards a two-stop race strategy.
What does this weekend's rear tyre construction test entail?
CP: This weekend we have the option to test the new construction of rear tyre brought by Pirelli. It's going to be more of a compromise than in the past with the shorter practice sessions, but we will have a look at them as we expect to be racing with them at the next race in Silverstone. It's not compulsory but it will certainly be useful to run them. Both drivers have two sets and we'll see where we work that into our run plan without compromising this race weekend too much.
What is Guanyu Zhou's programme for his first Free Practice 1?
CP: We're very pleased to have our Test Driver Zhou driving on Friday for his first FP1 in Formula 1. He's leading the Formula 2 Championship this year, so he's full of confidence and ready to help the team out this weekend. As a member of the Alpine Academy, he's driven the 2018 car quite a lot, so he's familiar with our systems and way of operating. He should fit right in and be up to speed quickly. We're aiming for a productive session with him with some set-up work to assess and some ideas we have to help us improve on last weekend.
It was a far from straightforward weekend for Esteban Ocon in the first of two races in Austria. The Frenchman is determined for a better result this weekend as Formula 1 gears up for the Austrian Grand Prix.
What are your post-Styria thoughts?
Esteban Ocon: It's always disappointing when you don't score points and certainly frustrating not to be competitive. The team and I are working hard to find solutions, and, this weekend brings us an immediate opportunity to try some things and see how we can return to the performance level we had earlier in the season. It was not an easy one to take on both Saturday and Sunday for different reasons and when you qualify so far down the order it makes the race more difficult.
How are you aiming to turn it around this weekend at the same circuit?
EO: There's no better opportunity than to comeback straight away at a back to back race. We have some ideas to explore and things to test to see what we can do to improve the performance. I'm feeling motivated and determined to get back into the top ten this weekend, and I'm looking forward to it.
What have you been doing on the days off in between?
EO: I've relaxed for a couple of days near the circuit where I'm staying. Austria is a great location to unwind, so that's been quite enjoyable. I've mixed a little bit of training with some fun activities like mountain biking, which has been great. It's the last race of the triple header and I want to cap off this segment of the season with a strong result.
Fernando Alonso will look to continue his points scoring form this weekend as the team is set for a second race around the Spielberg circuit for the Austrian Grand Prix.
Last weekend you finished ninth, what are your thoughts heading into a second race in Austria?
Fernando Alonso: I think we achieved the maximum from the weekend. It's a fun circuit to race on and because it's such a short lap there are very small margins between most of the field. This made the race very tight and we might have taken one more position had it not been for some blue flags. We have a lot of data to analyse and we don't have to wait long to go racing again. I'll be missing FP1 this weekend but it will be nice to see Guanyu Zhou in the car for the session and it'll be a great experience for him.
Did you do much in your time off between the two races?
FA: It's the third race of our first triple header this season so I made sure to take some time to recharge the batteries ahead of this weekend. It's my first time experiencing back to back races at the same venue in Formula 1. But I am looking forward to getting back to the track for another race here and to keep the momentum going.
What makes this circuit so unpredictable?
FA: As we saw last weekend qualifying and traffic management can be difficult with it being such a short lap. Tyre management is also key here and the compounds are a step softer this weekend which presents a new challenge. The weather is also very unpredictable, where one minute it's clear blue skies with high temperatures, and the next it's pouring down with rain and possible thunderstorms. We enjoy these challenges as drivers and I think this makes racing here twice in a row quite interesting as you try to adjust and perfect your weekend.