Fernando Alonso Absolutely Sending It is a Thing of Beauty as Formula 1 Hits The Track Ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Formula 1 is at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi for the final round of the 2021 season. There are two days of practice and qualifying as drivers and teams prepare for the Sunday championship showdown. With everything on the line, no one will be holding back, and every driver, regardless of championship position, will be giving it their all to win the season finale.

The Alpine F1 Team is on a run of solid performances and good finishes. Fernando Alonso finished third at the Qatar Grand Prix, and Esteban Ocon nearly grabbed a podium finish in Saudi Arabia after dicing with the leaders. The team and car are more competitive in the last part of the season, which is encouraging for the French manufacturer’s ambitions.

When Fernando Alonso feels strong and confident, and has a car that can match his skills, he is an absolute beast. Take a ride with the two-time world champion from a driver’s eye perspective as he pushes the Alpine F1 car to the absolute limit.

The view from a two-time world champion

Fernando Alonso is on maximum attack during his free practice lap. The driver’s eye view gives a unique perspective of the circuit and goes a long way in illustrating the speed and challenge of piloting a modern Formula 1 car. 

It is also possible to see the changes made to the Yas Marina Circuit. With the chicane gone and the hairpin opened up, the average speed around the track is higher. The circuit seems to have a better flow and rhythm, but a big question remains. Will there be more opportunities for passing?

In the first free practice session, Alonso managed to go sixth fastest. In the second practice, Alonso maintained his sixth position but shaved more than a second off his best lap time. 

Results from Free Practice

Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing Honda drive his RB16B single-seater during free practice of last race of the year in Yes Marina Circuit, Yes Island, Abu Dhabi, 10 December 2021 | Andrea Diodato/Getty Images

The first free practice session finished with Max Verstappen leading the way with the fastest time. Valtteri Bottas came in second, and Lewis Hamilton was third. It is difficult to read too much into the first race weekend practice as teams and drivers are not necessarily focusing on running as fast as possible. 

The practice sessions are used by the teams and drivers to dial in the setup of the car and to test a variety of scenarios, including running with a full fuel load. The second practice session tends to show a bit more of the overall performance of the cars and drivers, with the changes made in the first session having an effect in the second. 

The second free practice session was all about Lewis Hamilton, the only driver to dip into the 1 minute 23 second lap time range and a three-tenths of a second quicker than Esteban Ocon in the Alpine. 

Max Verstappen ended the day in the fourth spot, just behind Mercedes man Valtteri Bottas and ahead of teammate Sergio Perez. 

Fernando Alonso is sixth, AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda is seventh, followed by the Ferrari duo of Charles LeClerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. Pierre Gasly, in the other AlphaTauri rounds out the top 10.

What does practice mean for Saturday’s qualifying?

Alpine’s Spanish driver Fernando Alonso drives at the Yas Marina Circuit during the second free practice session of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix on December 10, 2021 | ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/Getty Images

The third practice session precedes qualifying on Saturday. Most teams will be making final adjustments to their car’s setup, and the overall performance will be much closer to the actual race pace.

It will be no surprise to see Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the top of the timesheets. Pole position will likely go to one of three drivers; Hamilton, Verstappen, or Bottas. Behind them, the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon are looking very quick and could find themselves close to the front of the grid on Sunday. 

Expect Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris, and Daniel Ricciardo to push hard in qualifying. Any one of those three drivers could score a podium finish in the race. 

It is always difficult to draw conclusions from the practice sessions. The teams and drivers run through a variety of scenarios and car configurations to assess performance, find the correct race setup and understand how the car’s various tire compounds work around the track. Despite the different agendas, fast drivers will always drive fast, and those at the top of the practice session timesheets are likely to carry that speed into qualifying and the race.

Saturday qualifying will set the stage for one of the biggest championship deciders in recent Formula 1 history. Verstappen and Hamilton will go toe-to-toe one final time this season in a winner-takes-all race. If Fernando Alonso’s lap is any indication, Max and Lewis won’t be the only ones looking for victory on Sunday.

Related: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: 5 Things to Know Going Into the Race