Fernando Alonso has conceded he is at a disadvantage compared to his rivals at this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix due to his lack of experience on the challenging Portimão circuit.
The undulating track was added to the calendar for the first time last year as F1 tried to fill gaps left by Covid-19 cancellations at other venues and it has retained its place again this year.
Alonso, who has returned to F1 after a two-year break this season, is yet to get up to full speed with Alpine, and although he tested in Portimão back in 2009, he confirmed his first day will be focused on finding his way.
“It’s going to be difficult here, for sure,” he said. “It’s another new circuit. Most of the grid, they raced here five months ago, so that’s something that I will need to get up to speed with quickly in the free practice.”
The circuit proved a handful for many of the drivers when they arrived in the latter stages of last season because of a new layer of asphalt that left them with little grip on the twisty turns.
Alonso’s experience from more than a decade ago will be worth little, and after working hard to re-familiarise himself with the sport after his time away he revealed he has been putting in some extra effort to prepare for this weekend.
“The change of elevation makes things a little bit more complex than a normal flat circuit,” added the two-time champion. “I think last year, watching from home, it was very different because of the new asphalt and the new grip.
“Let’s see what the conditions are this year. I am looking forward. It’s one of the best circuits in terms of feeling while driving, but then to extract the maximum then maybe there is a difference there.
“We prepared even more this race in the simulator and with more analysis, so let’s try again.”
At the last race in Imola, Alonso finished just behind his team-mate Esteban Ocon in 11th but was promoted into the points after the race, due to a penalty given to Kimi Raikkonen who had finished ahead.
That gave the Spaniard his first F1 point since finishing seventh for McLaren at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2018, although he insisted he still had little to celebrate after receiving the news.
“Happy to take the point and to see both cars in the points, but the feelings after Imola were a little bit down,” said Alonso. “The weekend, in general, I didn’t extract the maximum from the car, so it was not easy. But let's move on.”
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