It was a double disappointment for Alpine on Saturday as both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly failed to progress beyond Q1 in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.
Monza played host to the second trial of Pirelli’s Alternative Tyre Allocation, which mandated all drivers to use the Hard tyres in the first stage of qualifying.
Both Alpine drivers struggled for grip in the opening session, with Ocon’s hopes of advancing worsened after suffering floor damage following a trip through the gravel at the exit of Ascari.
However, setting lap times only good enough for 17th and 18th on Sunday’s starting grid came as no surprise to either Ocon or team-mate Pirre Gasly, who had both expected the team to struggle with Monza’s low downforce circuit configuration.
“Unfortunately all weekend I was quite happy with the car balance, but we’ve just been two seconds off the pace the whole time,” said Gasly.
“We knew coming here in Monza would be the toughest weekend of the year with all these long straights. It’s clearly been the case. We expected to be out in Q1, but you always have optimism that maybe with a hard tyre or something you could get through. But that’s all we had.
“We knew that we maximised everything we could, but the package doesn’t suit the layout. So I think we’ll have to analyse, review and come up with better solutions for next year.”
“But today there were a lot of cars that were quicker than us. That’s the reality. We seem to be performing less good than the other tracks.
“We are still digging into why those problems are coming to us here. I’m sure we will find answers, but today was not good enough.”
Alpine has struggled to find straight-line speed despite being on its lowest downforce configuration. Given the characteristics of the Monza circuit, the team had already anticipated a tricky weekend despite the highs of last weekend.
However, Gasly is optimistic that this weekend’s challenge will benefit Alpine’s development in the long term: “I think it’s very clear. We came here knowing our weaknesses. We knew that it would be amplified here,” he said.
“[The problems were] clearly identified straight away in FP1. We tried to react and maximise the package that we got but still not enough.
“I think it’s as difficult as it can be to take it on the chin. You’ve got to look at it objectively and it’s got to give us direction for next season in the way that we want to approach this very particular track.”
The Alpine duo will share the penultimate row of the grid later this afternoon. “We might battle each other on track!” Gasly said of lining up alongside his team-mate, with the two drivers separated by just 0.003s come the end of Q1.
“We’re obviously going to try to get something out of it. We’ll see in terms of strategy what we’re going to do,” he continued.
“But from where we are we’ve got to gamble a bit on something happening. So pure pace is not going to change tomorrow.
“But we’ll give our best chances and anything can happen until the last lap. We’ve got to try and we’ll see. But it’s definitely a slightly different feeling than last weekend.”