Fernando Alonso will start from the front row for the first time in ten years. The weather, a good base setup and Alonso's experience were the cocktail for the great moment in Montreal. Even Max Verstappen has to be careful at the start.
40 years and not a bit quiet. Fernando Alonso had to wait almost exactly ten years for this moment of glory. For the first time since the 2012 German GP, the Spaniard will start from the front row again. And that in an Alpine.
The veteran had already completely forgotten the protocol for such cases. And the situation was also new for his team. In the group photo on the home straight, there wasn't even a cap ready for the pilot. And instead of turning straight to the FIA press conference afterwards, the 40-year-old first looked at the bewildered TV crews before an FIA man pointed him in the right direction.
For the Formula 1 veteran, second place on the grid is just a milestone. "The points will be awarded tomorrow. I expect the two Red Bulls and Ferrari in front of us. Even if Perez and Leclerc are far behind. Our personal victory is fifth place."
The first two days of training in Montreal were reminiscent of the Melbourne story. There, too, a starting place in the front row seemed possible until an accident shattered the beautiful dream. There, too, the Alpine was among the top 5 in every training session.
The surprise in Montreal was by no means a coincidence. Alonso was third in the first practice, fifth in the second, winner in the third. The qualification continued in the same style. Second place in Q1, Q2 and Q3. Esteban Ocon on grid position seven speaks for a good team performance.
Alpine aggressive development program
Alonso felt comfortable in his car from the first lap. The Alpine drove out of the garage and was set up almost perfectly for the 4.361-kilometer route. "We didn't have to fiddle with the set-up. That's how I quickly built up confidence and a good rhythm, which is extremely important on this track. You need confidence when you have to go over the curbs and go right up to the wall." But Alonso also admits: "The weather played into our hands today. On a dry track we don't go that far."
In addition, Alpine has aggressively upgraded its A522 in recent weeks. New wings and sidepods in Baku, a new underwing in Montreal. And more new aerodynamic parts are announced for Silverstone.
Baku's upgrade pursued the goal: the same downforce with less drag. The modification in Montreal was more of a fine tuning. The lower element of the rear wing, which is now strongly reminiscent of the Red Bull, gives a little more downforce in the rear. Nevertheless, Alonso insists: "At the beginning of the season we were better in relation to the others.We have to keep pushing on the technical side."
Fast in all conditions
The effort made by the factory in Enstone was worth it for Montreal. The Alpine was in the top 3 in all three sectors. And, like in Baku, it's in the Top speed with the music. The Red Bull is only 2.8 km/h short.
The pilot's experience did the rest. Alonso has known the circuit since 2001 and he knows that you have to rely on yourself under strongly changing conditions has to concentrate himself: "The grip increases with every lap. But you never know by how much in each curve. That's when your age and experience pays off."
It was a journey into the unknown for everyone. "If you can go faster every lap because the track is drying, you have no idea where you are. It's all changing so fast. You just have to make sure that every lap fits and that the last lap is your best."
Adjustments to the conditions are required. "We've done that perfectly this weekend so far," praised Alonso. "All the training sessions were different. A green track in the first practice session. Lots of grip in the second. rain in the third. Mixed conditions in qualifying. We have prepared ourselves well for everything."
The big test for Alpine is still to come. This year, the journey on Sunday often went backwards because the car put too much strain on the tires. The long run on Friday on the hard tires gives Hope. The times were consistent and at a good level. Alpine will keep their hands off the soft compound. You didn't always have the best experience with the C5 tires.
Even though Max Verstappen isn't his opponent in the race, Alonso sent a warning to the world champion: "I'll attack you at the start." The Spaniard knows very well that Verstappen will back down in an emergency. The Red Bull driver drives with a view towards the world title.