Alpine are fighting a war of words on two fronts, something that didn’t end to well for a certain German 20th century leader. The team’s management are still clearly irritated by the departure of their protege Oscar Piastri to McLaren, given comments made over the winter break.
When asked by the Mirror whether he was over the Piastri affair, Otmar Szafnaeur cryptically suggested, “I think species that collaborate, survive. Species that are selfish, perish,”
Alonso says Alpine too complacent
Whilst Piastri refused to engage with the Alpine narrative since announcing he would not be driving for them, the departing Fernando Alonso has not minced his words about the French owned F1 outfit.
At the launch of the new Aston Martin AMR the Spaniard blamed complacency for his old team’s limited success in what was his third stint with the the Enstone based F1 outfit.
“This is very different compared to any other team that I joined in the last few occasions where maybe they had success in the past and they were just in a comfortable position,” Alonso told the media.
“They finished fourth and they were happy with fourth. They finished fifth and they were happy with fifth. If we were seventh, it was a celebration. Here there are no celebrations until we win and this is very appealing.”
Alpine set target to close the gap on 3rd
Alpine boss Otmar Szafnaeur when told of Alonso’s comments hit back at the Spaniard claiming, “I think when we did finish fourth, if you look back, he was as happy as everybody else who was part of the team.
“When the year before you’re fifth and your ambition is to move up to fourth, it’s not easy to do. We had to beat McLaren. I’ve been to Woking and you walk by and they have a massive trophy cabinet, so they’re not easy to beat.
“So I think you have to celebrate those successes when you say, ‘look, I want to be top four, I want to be fourth not fifth’. I don’t think it’s shameful to say ‘we’ve done it and let’s celebrate’.
“For us, next year, if we can get much closer to third than we were this year, I’ll celebrate that too. If we’re closer and the gap isn’t that big, that means we’re making progress to where we want to go.”
Monumental task to close on Mercedes
You could argue from Szafnaeur’s response Alonso is proven right about Alpine because ‘staying fourth, but being closer to third than fifth’ sounds like a wishy washy objective.
However, Alpine scraped home to finish P4 just 12 points ahead of McLaren yet they were a massive 342 points behind third placed Mercedes.
Add to this equation that McLaren’s points were mostly scored by just one driver, Lando Norris. So the effort to stay of a rejuvenated Woking squad this season with their eager new driver Oscar Piastri is no small ask.
Alpine’s 100 race plan
Alpine are entering year three of their five year plan (100 races) which will see them competing at the top of F1’s pyramid yet the gap they have to close on the top three is enormous.
Closing on third place will require something remarkable from the French team because they will have to have out developed Mercedes over the winter and continue to do so throughout the season.
Technical Director Matt Harman made an interesting comment at the launch of the team’s 2023 F1 challenger when he stated:
Record upgrade for 1st race
“We have an upgrade for the first race, that will be very visual and you’ll see that,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to that for ourselves, that’s a great step for Alpine in F1 as a team.
“To be able to take an upgrade to the first race is not something we’ve been able to do previously. It just shows the growth of our team, our ability to do that.”
The cynics would suggest Alpine’s first race upgrade is merely something they failed to get right for the car launch and testing next week in Bahrain.
Alpine in season development 2022 solid
That said, Mercedes updated their 2022 W13 between the first and second pre season tests by adding – or removing – the zero side pods.
Alpine progressed steadily throughout the 2022 season outscoring McLaren an clawing back an early deficit of 24 points totem after round four.
In fact if it were not for the Singapore weekend where Alpine’s closet rivals scored 22 points to their zero, the French owned team would have claimed their fourth place in the constructors’ championship with a race to go.
A note of caution for Alpine
The only note of caution for fans of the Alpine team came from Harman’s concluding comments.
“I’m confident that [even if] others might have done a better job than us, I think we’ve done the best job we could have done with the tools we had and that’s why, as a team, we’re building for the future
“That’s why we’ve got our 100-race plan and a mountain to climb so we can get to the point where we’ve got the tools that are a match for our competitors, so we can actually start raising our targets and hitting them.”
The key phrase is “with the tools we have.”
Unlike Aston Martin who are investing $200m in their infrastructure and McLaren who have a new wind tunnel in the pipeline, Alpine’s setup and budget by comparison is modest.
As the benefits from these investments kick in at Silverstone and in Woking Alpine may struggle to keep up based on financial might alone.
Have Alpine just admitted for the first time their 100 race plan will now be a struggle?