RACE DEBRIEF

    Alpine driver Fernando Alonso found himself right in the mix with Ferrari and Red Bull on Friday in Baku, spending the day in the top five. But the experienced two-time champion warned that anything can still happen in Baku.

    The Alpine package certainly looked competitive in the opening session of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, with the Spaniard grabbing P5 – although that time was flattered by the fact that Alpine bolted on the soft tyres much later than the rest of the field and thus ran on a more rubbered-in track.

    READ MORE: Red Bull pair confident they can close up to Ferrari in Baku despite ‘tricky’ Friday

    But Alonso proved it was no fluke by grabbing fourth in FP2, ahead of the Ferrari of countryman Carlos Sainz and comfortably clear of midfield rival Pierre Gasly.

    “Normally in the street circuits, you put all the downforce available, [like] in Monaco and Singapore, you feel the grip on the corners, and Saturday qualifying is the priority,” said Alonso, when asked about his team’s set-up approach. “While Baku, even if it’s a street circuit, Sunday is a priority.

    “Maybe the low downforce is the way to go. But the car doesn’t feel so grippy in the corners because of that downforce level, and it’s an easy weekend to make a mistake.

    “We seem fast today,” Alonso added, “so we’ll work overnight to ensure we keep this sort of pace tomorrow. We seem fast on the straights and it’s sometimes a set-up compromise with this type of circuit, but let’s see how we go tomorrow.”

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    Alpine opted for a very low-downforce set-up

    While Esteban Ocon couldn’t quite match his team mate’s eye-catching times, he did manage to squeeze into the top 10 in both practice sessions and seemed pleased with how his running had gone.

    READ MORE: Red Bull and Ferrari are ‘too far ahead' says Russell as Mercedes end Friday practice looking for pace

    “It was a decent day for us overall,” said Ocon after FP2.

    “Baku is a place where you really need to make the most of these practice sessions and get the laps in. Confidence is key around here. The car seems competitive after today, so that’s good to see, but we’ll have to put it all together tomorrow.”

    Ocon happy he has a 'competitive' car for Baku after upgrades