Alpine Executive Director Marcin Budkowski has revealed why Fernando Alonso had a dip in form during the early stages of the season, and how he managed to turn it all around to become one of the star drivers in recent events.
Alonso had a strong start to his return to Formula 1, having taken a sabbatical from the sport at the end of 2018. He was on course for points in the season-opener in Bahrain until a sandwich wrapper forced him to retire. The next four events, though, proved very tricky for the Spaniard.
"The interesting thing with Fernando's return, much has been said about his return to form and his difficult start to the season, in Bahrain he the put the car in Q3 at the first," Budkowski told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press.
"Then he had a series of slightly more difficult races or actually more difficult qualifying sessions because he was always very competitive in the race.
"He was just struggling to extract the 110 percent that you have to extract from the car on a qualifying effort. I thought about it actually because I was questioning this specific point of why he was good in Bahrain and struggled a bit more in the following races.
"I believe that we tested in Bahrain before and he had a bit more time to get accustomed to the car and the track and to push it if you want. On a normal race weekend, it's always a bit more tricky.
"Not a single time at the beginning of the season did he say that the car was not good enough or the setup is not good enough or the team's not working well enough. He said, 'We're missing two tenths, it's on my side, I'll find it, bare with me'.
"And he did. He just worked hard and worked with engineers. He knew that he had to squeeze this last bit of lap time from the car."
Alonso has scored points in the last six rounds prior to F1's summer break. His consistent points haul has helped Alpine to move into fifth in the Constructors' Championship. Budkowski says Alonso was ready to perform strongly from as early as the Monaco Grand Prix, but other factors hindered him.
"Progressively every race, he was getting a bit more comfortable and then we got into Monaco [and] Baku," continued Budkowski. "He was a bit unfortunate because Monaco we had a bit of a nightmare weekend with the tyres.
"Baku is a circuit where you have walls everywhere and it's not really one where you want to push to the extreme limit.
"I think after Monaco Fernando said, 'I'm looking forward to Paul Ricard, because actually I feel good in the car now, but I want a circuit where I can actually try it out and go and find the limits'. And that's exactly how it happened."