After scoring seven points in Baku, the team moved into fifth place in the Constructors' Championship. Attention turns towards Montreal for the return of the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend, as Chief Technical Officer Pat Fry outlines the team's plan of action for tackling the challenging Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
What will be the main talking points for Formula 1's return to Montreal?
Pat Fry: We're heading back to Montreal this weekend for the first Canadian Grand Prix in three years. It's been a regular on the Formula 1 calendar over the past couple of decades and brings some unique challenges given it's a non-permanent, hybrid track. We can expect the circuit to be a little green and dirty throughout opening Practice but, as we've seen in the past in Montreal, that will clear quite quickly with some rubber being laid down. We have the softest tyres on the Pirelli range available so getting on top of the conditions and gaining knowledge on the tyres will certainly be high on the programme tick list.
What are the key circuit characteristics and challenges?
PF: Compared to the last race in Baku, we can expect a slightly higher downforce level for this weekend. We will come up a step on the rear wing level and we have some beam wing options to run with it to identify the optimal downforce setting. The nature of the track layout in Montreal drives you to higher downforce as there are some decent straights mixed with a range of low to medium-speed corners. Montreal has a very similar power unit sensitivity to Baku and is usually very hard on brakes.
After scoring points in Baku last time out, how does the team reflect on its performance?
PF: It was positive to have both cars scoring points in Baku. From a performance point of view, we ran low downforce, which was reflected in our sector three times and high top speed. Our downforce choice was optimal for both qualifying and the race although we were trading low-speed corner performance for gains on the two long straights. We didn't experience too many difficulties with bouncing, which was a big discussion point in Baku. The 2022 cars run quite low and there's always going to be some bottoming on the ground and the bumps probably feel more sensitive but it's not too much of an issue for us.
What items are coming next in the team's development plan?
PF: After bringing updates to the sidepod area in Baku, we're taking a circuit-specific rear wing package for Montreal. We will be constantly updating the car through the next races with further upgrades planned for both the Silverstone and Austria races.
Esteban Ocon heads to Canada for his third ever race in Formula 1 around the French speaking streets of Montreal. Following his sixth points finish of the season last time out in Baku, Esteban will be looking to continue his form in Canada where he's scored points in his two previous visits.
How do you sum up your weekend in Baku?
Esteban Ocon: It was not the best weekend for sure even if we were able to come away with a point. We showed decent competitiveness up until Sunday and we felt we could've done better on race day. On Saturday, we had the pace to be well in the top ten in Qualifying, but the yellow flags were unfortunate, which then impacted where we started and how we approached the race. But, in the end, the team scored double points nevertheless, so we take that as a positive. We've debriefed and we can now take that knowledge into Montreal and the races beyond in order to bring our performance up to a higher level.
How will you approach this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix?
EO: First of all, it is great to come back to Canada. It feels like it's been a while and I know it's one of the more popular races on the calendar. The track in Montreal has slow chicanes and fast straights, and we've shown to be fast in a straight line, so hopefully that should help us this weekend. The aim will be to have a smooth weekend, go through our programme without any issues, show our pace in Qualifying, and score some good points on Sunday. I am already looking forward to getting in the car again.
You last raced at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2018. What are you most looking forward to this weekend?
EO: It does feel like a lifetime ago since then, especially as it's a place where I really enjoy racing. Last time I raced there I finished ninth, so I will definitely be looking to improve on that result. I always have strong support there with the French speaking Canadian fans and the big French community of Montreal, so I know the atmosphere will be great, which adds a good feeling to the whole weekend. Canadian fans are passionate, and I am sure that they are buzzing to have Formula 1 back, after three years. Now let's hope we can put on a good performance all weekend.
Fernando Alonso returns to Montreal this weekend for his seventeenth Formula 1 Grand Prix in Canada. Now with the longest career in Formula 1 history, the Spaniard is keen to build on his last two races and make it a fourth points finish in a row in Montreal.
Another seventh-place finish in Baku, how do you summarise last weekend?
Fernando Alonso: It was a decent result for us to finish seventh. I feel like we maximised our car and the opportunities presented to us by the retirements of other cars. We had to manage the tyres carefully especially with the lower downforce setup we had. But it meant we were quite protected in the straights and we could make up some ground after the pitstop and defend quite comfortably to the McLarens behind at the end of the race. We still need to better understand our car and why we are experiencing differences from Friday through to Sunday.
Many drivers are talking about the uncomfortable ride experienced in Baku. How did you find it?
FA: Our car is quite good at managing the bouncing effect of this year's cars. I didn't feel it too much in Baku and we were more focused on managing tyre degradation, especially of the rear tyres. It's going to be different at each circuit, for example in Jeddah it was very smooth, and Australia as well, and nobody said anything there. It's going to be very difficult for all of the teams to agree on change.
You are now the Formula 1 driver with the longest career in the sport. How do you keep up your longevity racing at such an elite level in motorsport?
FA: I am happy to have achieved this milestone in Formula 1. I think 21 years at the pinnacle of any sport, whether it's motorsport, basketball, or any others is a great achievement. It requires a lot of passion, self-discipline and sacrifice over the years but it's all worth it. I am happy to have achieved this and there is more to come!