Alex Analysis: China
Recap everything we learnt in Shanghai
Published
22 Apr 2024
Est Reading Time
4 min
And just like that, Round 5 and our first Sprint Weekend of the season is over as we debrief the Chinese Grand Prix. Let’s analyse how everything unfolded for Alex in Shanghai over the three days.
FP1 would be the only practice session of the entire weekend as Alex took to the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time in five years. Albono had just one hour to gather all the crucial information the team would need before competitive sessions began, and spent the majority of this time on a long-run simulation.
The practice ended with Alex swapping onto the softs and completing a lap time of 1:37.229 to end the session in 8th place.
Fast forward to the local time of 15:30 and it was time for the first Sprint Qualifying of 2024. Drivers are required to use medium tyres in the opening SQ1 and Alex was able to set a 1:38.043 in his first flying lap. This was bettered to a 1:37.812, however this was only fast enough to make P18 for Saturday’s Sprint.
After just 1 hour and 18 minutes of potential time on track for Alex, it was already time to go racing as the lights went out for the 19-lap Shanghai Sprint. After a solid getaway Albono was passed by the RB of Yuki Tsunoda at the end of the opening lap and a DRS train began to form ahead. Alex opted to hold back, protecting the tyres to be in with a fighting chance of battling up the grid towards the second half of the race.
As we reached lap 11, Albono’s plan was beginning to work as he was able to head up the inside of Niko Hulkenberg at Turn 1 to move back into P18. A Fernando Alonso retirement meant Alex moved up another place, finishing the Sprint in P17.
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The new Sprint regulations of 2024 meant the team were able to make adjustments to the car following the sprint race, and this was evident as we entered Grand Prix Qualifying.
Albono was able to set an initial Q1 time of 1:35.729, only to better it on his final push with a 1:35.384. This was enough to remain in P13 and sail through to Q2 for the fifth time this season.
A red flag disrupted proceedings in the second round of qualifying, with Carlos Sainz clipping the barrier to delay on-track action. Following the restart, Alex was able to set his best lap time of 1:35.241 which would be good enough for a P14 start in Sunday’s race.
Following Q2 Alex was optimistic, commenting, "It’s been a tricky weekend so far, so 14th was probably the best we could do today.
"Our car struggles with the long corners at this track, and the mix of high and low-speed corners makes set-up difficult.
"We had to prioritise low speed corners, compromising stability in high speeds. The wind also affected the balance and made the car feel quite disconnected. Today has clarified what we need to work on going forward, and the team can be proud of the changes we’ve made ahead of the session.
"I’m optimistic as we’ve got a good tyre allocation for the race, and winds should be lower. We can definitely fight from here tomorrow."
Roll onto race day at the Shanghai International Circuit and the battles commenced straight away as Alex simultaneously looked to attack Esteban Ocon in P13, whilst defending against his Alpine teammate, Pierre Gasly. Some people (mainly Alex) would call this an Alpine baguette.
Albono defended strongly and was able to maintain position heading into the opening round of pit stops. A switch to the medium tyred was followed by some wheel-to-wheel battling with the RB of Yuki Tsunoda before a safety car shook up proceedings.
Alex took this opportunity to switch to the hard tyre, which he would run on for the remainder of the race.
A second safety car had Alex sitting in P13 following Tsunoda’s withdrawal, and as the green flag was waved, Albono looked to attack the vulnerable RB of Daniel Ricciardo straight away. Hugging the inside at Turn 1, our No.23 was able to utilise his superior grip and overtake the Australian, ultimately finishing the race just five seconds outside the points in P12.
It was a weekend of consistent improvement and speaking at the end of Sunday, Alex said, "It was an OK race today.
"Although the lower winds helped us, we were battling a lot of tyre degradation throughout the race.
"We ultimately didn’t have the pace to overtake [Esteban] Ocon at the end and he was defending well.
"We understand the problems with the car, but they’re not immediate fixes and we will need a few upgrades to improve our performance.
"Looking to Miami, I think our car will suit the track much better and I’m optimistic we can have a better result."
Albono and the team will now have a week off to recover and prepare as they head to the sunshine state for Round 6.
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