Pierre Gasly crossed the chequered flag in Canada a frustrated figure, hampered by a series of issues throughout the weekend that compromised his chances on Sunday.
His elimination from Q1, due to Carlos Sainz impeding the Frenchman in the final sector, grabbed the headlines – but there was another important obstacle that presented itself.
Within minutes of exiting the garage in first practice, Gasly’s A523 experienced an engine-related failure and brought out the first red flags of the weekend
Although issues with surveillance meant that Alpine’s rivals had no chance to complete mileage in Gasly’s absence, the French outfit was forced to make an engine change.
Having experienced issues previously this year, including Friday practice in Baku, the 27-year-old finds himself dangerously close to a grid drop.
However, Alpine technical director Alan Permane has been assured that no additional power units – which would result in penalties – will be necessary:
“I’m told we won’t take any more. I know it’s very early in the season, but that’s where he is,” he is quoted as saying by RaceFans.
“He’s got enough to get him through to the rest of the year.
“There are far cleverer people than me, looking at that and allocation of milages…
“But at the moment, [the] plans are to go through the rest of the year without a penalty.”
Considering the reliability issues that Alpine faced last season, to see engine-related problems persisting will certainly be a frustration for all the personnel at Enstone and Viry.
Otmar Szafnauer and Laurent Rossi were quite nonchalant about their mechanical failures in 2022, emphasising the team’s focus on maximising performance ahead of priority.
Whilst the Renault engine is competitive, it lacks a significant enough advantage over its rivals to justify some of the experienced by the A523 this year.
Alan Permane’s strategy to avoid an engine penalty was actually employed last season with Fernando Alonso, who quickly ran out of power unit components after a series of early failures.
In fact, the Spaniard spent most of the year recycling engine components – never receiving a fresh power unit after exceeding the FIA’s limit in the first half of the year.
Considering the DNFs Alonso suffered in Italy, Singapore, Mexico and Abu Dhabi, it is safe to say this strategy was ineffective.
Regardless of this cautionary tale, it seems Alpine are prepared to take risks in an effort to avoid taking costly grid penalties later in 2023.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndosang