Despite finishing fourth in the constructors’ standings, Alpine’s season has been far from smooth sailing. From the first test onwards, there have been challenges to extract the performance from the A522, says team principal Otmar Szafnauer.
“Well, the first test had its problems for a couple of reasons. One, or mainly, because we did want to push the performance envelope and that means a couple of things. One, taking risks on the engines on the performance side [without] being conservative on the reliability side. And we’ve seen that, but we can fix the reliability.”
And from the chassis-side of things, it also wasn’t the bumpy-free ride some might have hoped.
“And two, with the chassis, you know, to push performance it just means you have to iterate longer before you release parts for the real car, and that means you’re under pressure to produce them on time. And if anything goes wrong in the production then it’s quite critical.”
But eventually the push for performance started to deliver the desired results, showing clear progress for the Enstone-team through the year. Szafnauer even dares to say Alpine has had the best improvement over the season.
“And we did both things last year, so that meant at the beginning we’re a bit struggling, but then once we got on top of having enough car parts, starting to understand the car, then the updates came, and we’ll have to look. I don’t know, we’ll have to look at the update slope, the slope of improvement, to see how we faired with some of the others. But I think we’re one of the best, from where we started to where we ended up. Maybe Merc is up there too.”
And even though departing driver Fernando Alonso was at times quite vocal about the reliability issues of the Renault power train, the American team boss defends the decision to sacrifice the reliability for performance. When asked if this was the right strategy, he was quite clear.
“Yes, I mean, had we finished fifth maybe I would have said something different, but even if we’re reliable this year from the outset, then I doubt we would have been third. So, finishing fourth is probably the best we could have done this year and therefore it was the right strategic decision to make to go for performance if it has to be at the expense of reliability, because we ended up in fourth, so it was the right thing to do.”
So, with the performance of the car and power train trending in the right direction, Szafnauer is confident that this will provide a solid starting point for the 2023 season.
“And now it’s a good basis to start from for next year. The cars are, yes slightly changed, but pretty much the same. There’s a significant aerodynamic change on the floor, but the power trains are frozen for example.”
Whether the all-French driver duo of Gasly and Ocon can replicate this years “best of the rest”-performance remains to be seen, but as far as Szafnauer is concerned the foundation has been laid.