Neither Alpine driver managed to finish in the top 10 in Azerbaijan, making it two races in a row that they have had to leave without adding any points to their tally. But getting both cars to the finish line was at least progress on a weekend marred with incidents and reliability woes – with both drivers understandably keen to move on and focus on Miami.
The team did have a small package of upgrades to test in Baku, but with Esteban Ocon starting from the pit lane after making changes to his suspension under parc ferme regulations and Pierre Gasly at the back of the field thanks to a crash in qualifying, they were always going to be limited by traffic as they sought to fully understand the potential of their new parts.
Ocon, at least, spent much of the race in the top 10 after trying an opportunistic one-stop strategy, the Frenchman pitting on the very last lap after extending his first stint in the hopes of a Safety Car. When that didn’t materialise, his late stop dropped him to 15th, one place lower than his team mate.
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“It was working well until that last lap where we had to box,” said Ocon. “Difficult weekend I think for all of us, but we had a great battle the whole race, keeping the cars on fresher tyres behind and we just tried a strategy, tried to make it work, but unfortunately nothing happened in the end, so it didn’t really work out for us.
"But the good thing is we have next week to turn things around and to forget about this week quickly, this race quickly and hopefully we can do something.”
As for Gasly, his weekend was even more torrid than his team mate’s and included the rear of his car being engulfed by flames, an exhaust issue, a crash in qualifying and a less than ideal two-stop strategy in the race that proved to be slower than the one-stop favoured by the leaders. He didn’t mince his words on how the weekend went.
“We’ve got to move on very quickly from this race weekend because it’s been very bad, and very far from what we have showed so far this year," he said.
"So we’ve got to understand to make sure it never happens again. We clearly are not where we want to fight, and where we should be fighting, so we’ve got to understand and make sure we don’t underperform that way in the future.”
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Gasly at least doesn’t have long to wait until he can race again, with the Miami Grand Prix just a few days away. That race offers another chance to test out Alpine’s upgrades, with the format reverting back to the traditional three hours’ worth of practice.
“We can test more and understand a bit more about the package and figure out a bit more what didn’t work this weekend. We showed some good performance in Melbourne - Jeddah and Bahrain were also definitely better than this weekend. I’m sure we will test a lot and I’m happy [Azerbaijan] is done because it was pretty frustrating, and we’ve got to focus on next weekend now.”