BWT Alpine F1 Team will take strong grid positions in tomorrow’s return of the Japanese Grand Prix as Esteban Ocon qualified a superb fifth and Fernando Alonso seventh after a tightly contested Qualifying at Suzuka.
Esteban’s fifth place matches his best Qualifying result of the season, equalling his performances in Saudi Arabia and Hungary earlier in the year.
The team is in a competitive position for tomorrow’s race, which takes place at 14:00pm local time where the weather conditions are likely to be mixed with high chance of rain.
Both drivers ran comfortably inside the top six throughout all three Qualifying sessions as they progressed in fourth and sixth in Q1 and second and fourth in Q2 to reach the top ten shootout.
In Q3, Fernando ran with new Softs on his first run, setting a lap time of 1min 30.322secs. Esteban’s first attempt on used Softs saw him in tenth place before his sensational effort on new tyres to improve by almost one second to a 1min 30.165secs, which was good enough for fifth. Fernando was unable to improve on a second new set and ended up qualifying seventh.
“I’m delighted with today and how the weekend has unfolded so far. Fifth place is a great result for us, just behind the Red Bulls and the Ferraris. After the disappointment of last weekend, it is very satisfying to bounce back in this manner and show our potential. The upgrades are working well, and our car suits this circuit, so it’s a job well done from everyone trackside and at both factories. We are in a solid position to score points with both cars tomorrow so we are fully focused on finishing our Japanese Grand Prix weekend strongly.”
“I’m pleased to be starting in seventh tomorrow. I think we might be even more competitive in wet conditions, so I’m hoping for the weather to be a bit mixed tomorrow. If it’s a chaotic race, then we have a lot less to lose than the cars in front of us who are battling for the Championships. The car has felt great all weekend and I’m surprised about how close all of the teams are this weekend, with only a few tenths of a second separating a number of cars. I’m positive heading into tomorrow’s race. If there is some rain, we will stay focused and there is a possibility to be in the top five by the chequered flag.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“We are very happy with our Qualifying performance today and, clearly, our car is working well at this magnificent circuit where it’s brilliant to be back racing. We put together three solid Qualifying sessions today where everything clicked into place and I think that is reflected on the timesheets. Esteban did a great job to keep finding improvements throughout the day to qualify in fifth place. Of course, points are awarded on Sundays and if we can keep our two current places then we’ll be in a great spot. We’ll remain realistic, though, be wary of our close competitors, and I think we can have a competitive race tomorrow in any conditions. There is a high chance of rain but, in the wet on Friday, we had no issues so we’re looking forward to whatever may come our way.”