BWT Alpine F1 Team’s Esteban Ocon qualified a sensational fifth place for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with team-mate Fernando Alonso seventh after a superb team qualifying result at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
Fifth place on the grid marks Esteban’s best qualifying result since last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, with his lap time of a 1min 29.068secs enough to sit at the top end of a five-car pack split by only two tenths of a second.
Fernando’s lap time of a 1min 29.147secs was just 0.079secs off Esteban with the Spanish driver set to line-up in seventh for tomorrow’s 50-lap race.
Most teams opted for varying strategies in Q1, using multiple fast and slow laps on one set of Soft tyres to try and find the optimum level of grip and performance. Both Esteban and Fernando successfully navigated Q1 after three push laps each.
In Q2, Esteban’s opening attempt was compromised by a slow-moving McLaren, while Fernando’s first effort was good enough for fifth place. Mick Schumacher’s crash at Turn 10 brought out a red flag, which delayed proceedings for one hour. At the resumption, Fernando improved his lap to ease into Q3 for the second time this season, with Esteban joining him after a superb final effort.
On scrubbed tyres in Q3, Esteban’s strong first lap ensured he was well in contention for a top five grid slot. He was unable to improve on new Softs after aborting his second lap. Fernando’s final lap, an improvement by half a tenth, was enough push him from ninth to seventh to give Alpine its first double Q3 result since last season’s Qatar Grand Prix.
Esteban Ocon, P5
“First of all, the most important thing is that Mick is OK. That was a big shunt, and I am glad to see that everything seems to be fine with him. On our side, the car felt good and it’s good to see that we are quick around this track. It’s a very fast circuit, very technical and you do have to take some risks. I almost put it in the wall in Q3 but managed to just save it. It’s only the second race with this new car and to qualify in fifth and seventh is great and we should be very happy about today. We’ve built up well all weekend and I am happy how the car has improved during all the practice sessions. We’re in the mix to fight for a solid result tomorrow.”
Fernando Alonso, P7
“It felt good to be in Q3 in Bahrain and now we arrive at a completely different circuit in qualifying trim, and we have both cars in Q3, so it’s a good sign for the team. The car has definitely felt competitive all weekend. With these 2022 cars we keep learning every single time we leave the garage and I think there is still more potential for us to develop. The tyre degradation is still a little bit unknown for tomorrow and now we don’t have to use the tyres we qualified on in Q2, so it gives us more flexibility on strategy. Let’s see what we can do in the race and hopefully we can take a lot of points from it.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal
“We’re delighted with today’s Qualifying result with brilliant laps from Esteban and Fernando to put us well inside the top ten for tomorrow’s Grand Prix. We knew from the beginning of the weekend we had the pace to be very competitive, so to see the hard work from everyone at the team pay off is excellent. Only half of the job is complete, though, and points are only given out on Sundays. We’ve put ourselves in a great position to have a strong race and we’re looking forward to developing our strategy overnight to ensure both cars are very well placed and prepared to score points. We also wish Mick [Schumacher] well after a quite frightening crash during the session. We hope Mick recovers quickly and is in a position to race again soon.”