Returning from a two-year hiatus from F1 this season, the double world champion admitted he was short of being at “100%” at the opening two races in Bahrain and Imola.

Alonso enjoyed an encouraging day of practice at Portimao and was fifth-fastest in the FP2 timesheets, just ahead of Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon and within 0.4s of Lewis Hamilton’s benchmark.

“It was a good practice day for me and the most comfortable I’ve had this season compared to Bahrain and Imola,” Alonso said.

I was happy with the setup of the car quite early in the day, so I concentrated mostly on becoming more acclimatised to the circuit and then evaluating the tyres over the two sessions. There is still lots of data for us to analyse, but it’s a good start to the weekend.

“I enjoyed driving the circuit for the first time in a Formula 1 session, but I think traffic could be a challenge tomorrow in qualifying. It’s an exciting track to drive, that’s for sure.”

Despite Alpine’s strong pace catching the attention of McLaren driver Lando Norris, Alpine racing director Davide Brivio stressed the French squad will not be focusing too much on the timesheets at this stage of the weekend.

“I think it was a good day for the team today,” he said. “It is just Friday, though, and we won’t be looking too much into the timesheets.

“We were able to test a few things on each car in the morning, and then we completed our usual long runs in the second session on each tyre to collect data and information for the race.

“The drivers did a good job; it’s Fernando’s first time here in a Formula 1 car, so he was getting used to the track a little bit and Esteban ran very consistently in both sessions.

“It’s a positive start to the weekend, we’ll keep working hard and see how the next two days unfold.”

 

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