The team enjoyed a successful Portuguese Grand Prix weekend with both cars inside the points. Attention turns to Barcelona for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, as Executive Director Marcin Budkowski explains the team's development plan.
What makes the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya an interesting Formula 1 track?
Marcin Budkowski: Barcelona is the usual benchmark circuit in Formula 1, its combination of low, medium and high-speed corners means it highlights pretty well a car's strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, Formula 1 pre-season testing happened on this track for many years, so the drivers know it particularly well. Even if the conditions can be quite different between winter testing and May, when we usually race in Barcelona, it's one of those circuits where teams and drivers are so prepared that there aren't usually too many surprises. It will be interesting to see if this is any different this year given we all arrive here less prepared than usual.
What upgrades are planned for this race and beyond?
MB: We have small things coming through on the back of some successful testing in Portimao, where we improved a few specific areas of the car. There's more to come and, in general, we'll continue to bring performance improvements to the car for the next few races, before we switch entirely our focus to 2022.
How does the team look back on the Portuguese Grand Prix and what's the confidence level heading to Spain?
MB: On the back of a strong race in which we showed good pace and achieved a double points result, we want to build on this good momentum. Barcelona, historically, hasn't been one of our strongest tracks, but neither was Portugal last year, so we will aim to confirm our progress by putting both cars in Q3 and scoring more points.
Esteban Ocon made it two points finishes in a row following his smooth seventh place finish in Portugal. The Frenchman was in determined form with a series of overtakes helping him on his way, as he looks ahead to this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.
What is the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya like to drive?
Esteban Ocon: Barcelona is a challenging circuit but one we know very well. It's been the location for testing for many years, especially during my Formula 1 career, so it's a place where I've completed many laps. Sector 1 and Sector 2 are fast and challenging with the tyres getting very hot in the long corners at Turns 3 and 9. The final sector is tricky as it's slow-speed and by that point on the lap you tend to lose a bit of grip. There's a slight change to the circuit this year at Turn 10, which looks to sweep a little bit more than before. I look forward to taking it on for the first time on Friday.
How do you reflect on the Portuguese Grand Prix?
EO: It was an entertaining race at the wheel with some hard and fair racing throughout. We left Portugal feeling very satisfied with our efforts. We turned a solid Friday into a really good Saturday and qualifying in sixth was a great feeling. The race result shows the progress we've made so far this season, but it also shows that we have more to do and more to find. It was great to fight with Ferrari and McLaren, but we must aim to do that consistently and, of course, beat them. Let's see what we can do this weekend. It will be interesting to see how the car performs at this circuit.
It's your first-time back racing in Spain for two years, are you looking forward to it?
Fernando Alonso: I am excited to be back racing in Spain. It's always special racing in your home country and I have good memories here in Barcelona. It's a circuit all of us drivers know well, as we normally do our pre-season test here as well as racing the Grand Prix during the season. It's a challenging circuit with a lot of high speed corners. The race is also back to back with Portugal, so it's nice to keep the momentum going. It's traditionally quite a difficult circuit to overtake on, so qualifying will be very important. We'll see where we are during the weekend and target a positive weekend with some more points on the board.
It was another points finish for you last time out in Portimao, what are your takeaways from the weekend?
FA: Overall, it was a good weekend for us. The car performed better than in the previous two rounds, and I felt comfortable from Friday onwards. Unfortunately qualifying didn't go as planned for me, but we made up for it with a very strong race and I enjoyed fighting inside the top ten with our rivals. Had we started higher on the grid; we could have scored even more points on Sunday. We want to carry this form into Spain.
Unfortunately, there are no fans in the grandstands this weekend, how much will you miss them here?
FA: It's a real shame to be racing here with no fans in the grandstands. Formula 1 with fans is very special, but even more so when it's your home fans. I remember how supportive and passionate the Spanish fans have been in the past, so we will miss this over the weekend. You race to feel the emotion from the support of your fans. Hopefully the fans can return to races soon but in the meantime, we can put on a good show for them watching at home.