'The car feels good', says Alonso as he completes impressive 127 laps on Alpine debut
Fernando Alonso made his long-awaited return to Formula 1 with Alpine - and disproved any doubts about his fitness following his pre-season bike crash - as he completed a stellar 127 laps for his new squad over the second day of testing in Bahrain.
Alonso, who suffered a broken jaw in a cycling accident last month, missed Alpine's pre-season shakedown and virtual launch, but the two-time champion was finally back at the wheel of the resplendent blue A521 on Saturday at Sakhir - and notched up the second-highest tally of laps with 127 to Nicholas Latifi's 132 (more than two race distances).
"Yeah the car feels good," he said. "I think we still have to understand a little bit of the characteristics of the new aero package and the 2021 rules, so there’s still some work to do but I think we are following the programme that we set two days ago, yesterday with Esteban [Ocon]; today with myself."
The Spaniard's mileage means that Alpine have now completed the most laps with 257 (Red Bull and Alfa Romeo sitting on 256).
However, Alonso's fastest lap was completed on the C2 (hard) compound, meaning he was the second-fastest driver on the white-walled tyres behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez. The Alpine driver explained that achieving long runs and steady pace was the team's plan all along.
"I think our choice for the winter has been to choose the harder compounds and to run as many laps as possible," he said, "so you know, we are I think qualifying in two weeks’ time [and that] will be the time for the softs, not even tomorrow."
So it's likely that Alpine - who have stood out thanks to their unique airbox design - will look to continue notching up the miles on the final day, with little focus on a 'glory run' on low fuel and soft tyres. Esteban Ocon will be in the car in the morning, with Alonso taking over for the final afternoon.