Formula 1 Racing

“Overperforming” floor and plank legality fears led to pit lane start for Ocon · RaceFans

Race start, Baku City Circuit, 2023

Alpine say the new floor they brought to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix “overperformed”, though they were unable to capitalise on it.

The team endured a difficult weekend at the Baku City Circuit, where neither driver scored for the second event in a row.

The trouble began on Friday when Pierre Gasly’s car caught fire during the sole practice session. Alpine pulled Ocon in due to the concerns raised by Gasly’s stoppage, costing them more practice running.

Ocon nonetheless qualified 12th for the grand prix and 13th for the sprint race. However the team decided to make suspension set-up changes to his car under parc ferme conditions, forcing Ocon to start both races from the pit lane.

Race start, Baku City Circuit, 2023
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Alpine’s sporting director Alan Permane said the floor update produced the desired gains in downforce, but prompted concerns the team would damage the plank on the underside of Ocon’s car. The plank is a legality device which is measured after sessions to ensure it has not become excessively worn. If it has, the car can be disqualified.

“We were very concerned with Esteban’s plank wear, honestly, because we’d only had such a short period of time,” said Permane. “At the end of the full qualifying session it was looking tough.”

Opting to change the car’s set-up was a “very difficult decision” said Permane, but the team “were very worried about the car being illegal at the end of the race, or even before the end of the race. And that is a direct consequence of what happened in FP1.”

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However Permane drew encouragement from the effectiveness of its floor upgrade. “It worked as performed,” he said. “In fact, it overperformed a little bit. That’s a positive to take away from this weekend.

“It looks very much like we’re going to continue that trend of just being able to put things on the car without really having to test them too much, which is such a huge benefit, and something that we grew in confidence with last year.

“As more and more things come through, and we’ve got something in Miami [the next race], we’ve got something else in Imola. I’m not too sure where we are beyond that, but there’s definitely another tenth [of a second in performance] coming, then another tenth. So there’s good stuff coming in the pipeline, and having that confidence that it will work first time is great.”

Permane defended the decision to…

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