Alpine’s new-look 2021 Formula 1 car, the A521, has hit the track for the first time for a filming day shakedown at Silverstone on Wednesday. 

With returning two-time world champion Fernando Alonso unable to travel to the UK amid the current coronavirus-related restrictions on movement, Esteban Ocon was given the honour of turning in the first laps in the A521 ahead of the upcoming 2021 F1 season. 

It marks Ocon’s latest run in F1 machinery after the Frenchman returned to the cockpit last week with a run-out at Paul Ricard in a 2018-spec Renault R.S.18. 

Although mileage for filming days is restricted to just 100km, the shakedown provided Alpine the chance to evaluate its new car and systems in a live environment, as well as handing Ocon the opportunity to get up to speed ahead of next week’s pre-season test in Bahrain, which has been cut to just three days of running. 

Apart from foggy weather delaying the start to Ocon's running, he was able to enjoy a trouble-free initial outing and completed a total of 16 laps around Silverstone's grand prix layout. 

“It was really good fun today," Ocon said after his first run in the A521.

"First of all, it was nice to get in the car again at a track like Silverstone as that’s always something special. The car felt nice to drive for the first time and we managed to get through our programme as planned.

"There was a bit of a delay this morning with the fog, but once that cleared, the track was dry and that made the running very enjoyable. I wish I could drive for more than 100km, but that’s the limit, and I leave here with a smile on my face.

"We want to take that into Bahrain next week when conditions will be more representative with the race tyres and some heat. All in all, it was a very interesting day and I can’t wait to discover more about the car. I have to say, I love the new colours. It’s the best-looking car on the grid!”

Alpine executive director Marcin Budkowski said a shakedown of a new car is one of the “milestone” moments for teams during a season. 

“It’s always a special moment,” he said. “There’s a few moments that are milestones in the life cycle of a team, a season. 

“We had the fire-up a few weeks ago and it’s like ‘it’s alive’, the first time you hear the engine in the car, a project that was drawings, there were parts, purchase orders, it’s all immaterial. The result of the work of 100s of people who spend their days, evenings working on this suddenly comes to life. 

“Tomorrow is the next big milestone of the car going out of the garage. It is a combination of excitement, of seeing this new beast finally put together.

"But there’s also anxiety – is it going to break on the first lap? Is it going to be quick, is the driver going to be happy? You think what is the driver going to say? Hopefully, it is not wet and we do have good feedback.” 

Like Alpine, McLaren, Red Bull, AlphaTauri and Williams have carried out similar filming day tests with their new challengers, while Mercedes has opted against conducting its traditional shakedown prior to pre-season testing. 

Mercedes will instead use up one of its two permitted filming days on 16 March in Bahrain, in between testing and the first round of the season. 

 

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