Ocon converted Alpine’s impressive pace in practice into a top six starting position on the grid.

Alpine has scored just three points in the opening two rounds of the season, having dropped back from the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and AlphaTauri, relative to last year.

Explaining Alpine’s impressive turn of pace at Portimao, Ocon said: “It was a good session, I think a good day overall. Before this weekend we knew the car wasn’t necessarily where we wanted it to be, but we kept searching, kept digging, and arriving into the weekend there was a few things that we needed to test and I think we made a huge step this weekend in terms of performance and feeling inside the car.

“On the weekend where last year it was quite tricky we ended up with having our best performance of the year so it’s very positive this weekend so far and we hope that we can keep this progress up like we are doing now and keep the level of performance as well.”

The Frenchman was narrowly pipped to fifth place by Carlos Sainz - just 0.049s separated the pair.

Ocon felt his final lap in Q3 wasn’t the best and thought the ‘best of the rest’ spot behind Mercedes and Ferrari was there for the taking.

“It was not the best lap, I have to say, unfortunately,” Ocon explained. “So I’m a bit disappointed with being sixth, I think fifth was possible today. The great lap was the Q2 one. The Q2, if I had that lap time in Q3 it would have been a different story but for everyone the conditions were tougher. But yeah I needed to send it into Turn 1, that was the aim and my engineer is boosting me a little bit there so that was very nice.

“But the Q3 conditions were very, very difficult and I almost went off into Turn 1 on the first run of Q3, so it was a little bit of resetting and getting back to it, but overall a decent lap.”

Teammate Fernando Alonso struggled to get his tyres up to temperature in Q2 and is set to start tomorrow afternoon's race from 13th on the grid.

The two-time F1 champion is looking to benefit from having a free choice of tyres for the start.

“Maybe we are not in the position that we should be but at the same time we have the free choice of tyre and that may be better for tomorrow’s race in a way as a team to have two possibilities for the tyres so as I said it has been a very positive weekend,” Alonso added.




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