Alpine plan significant updates in Imola, Baku and Silverstone

AustralianGP, Melbourne - Alpine - Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly.

Alpine entered this year’s Championship with the aim of closing the gap to the front-runners and creating distance from the midfield pack. Before Aston Martin’s 2023 resurgence with the AMR23, Alpine saw Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes as the teams to aim for.

However, the team’s mission of consolidating 4th in the standings already looks to be failing – thanks to the huge leap forward made by Aston Martin. In the first two races, the French team actually found itself defending from the likes of McLaren, Alfa Romeo, Williams and Haas.

Alpine’s threat to Ferrari, Mercedes, and indeed Aston Martin was virtually non-existent, without even mentioning the gap to the dominant Red Bull

Thankfully for Alpine, the Australian Grand Prix restored confidence in Enstone, with team showing its highest level of performance in 2023 – despite failing to secure any points.

Ocon and Gasly collided on the last restart, throwing away a strong result and allowing McLaren to overtake them in the standingsThe team now has a three-week break before returning to action in Baku, which represents an opportunity to bounce back.

Gasly optimised DRS to stay in Sainz’s slipstream, but Alpine is still several tenths away from challenging the top teams.

In Australia, Pierre Gasly’s race was impressive from the outside. The Frenchman had no problem following Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari SF-23 for most of the race, with pace that surprised Alpine themselves:

“We need to understand why the pace was so good because the car hasn’t changed since Jeddah,” commented team principal Otmar Szafnauer.

Gasly can certainly be praised for utilising DRS – worth an average of 7-tenths in Australia – so effectively at Albert Park. However, there are still other weaknesses for Alpine to address.

AustralianGP, Melbourne;  Ferrari SF-23, Carlos Sainz 55 - Alpine A523, Pierre Gasly 10

Taking his teammate Esteban Ocon as a comparison, although this is somewhat dubious because of their two very different races in Australia, two important data points emerge:

Pierre Gasly gained 1 second in DRS zones but ended up losing most of this advantage in the low-speed corners, especially the last sector, thanks to the Ferrari SF-23’s turbulent air.

Thus, at the end of the lap, the time difference between the two Alpine drivers was about 1-2 tenths in Gasly’s favour, with a huge loss of performance in the low-speed sections.

Alpine A523 - Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon

In the final stages, the Frenchman lost out on DRS from the Spaniard – which saw his performance collapse, losing by 8 tenths per lap compared to Sainz in the last laps before the final Safety Car (and subsequent red flag). 

Gasly lost the advantage on the straight, and in addition, he fell somewhat off ‘the cliff’ with his tyre life. Still, from the data, it is clear Gasly gained time in the final sector when he was further behind Sainz, gaining an average of 5-7 km/h in various corners – especially in those of medium speed. 

As we have already reported, these 2023 cars have returned to producing more harmful dirty air, more heavily influencing the performance of those who follow.

Ferrari and Haas seem to be the hardest hit, which is no coincidence that they have the same aerodynamic concept. 

When eliminating the impact of DRS and other factorsAlpine was 3-5 tenths away from fighting with Ferrari and the other top teams.

Alpine works to produce spare parts and updates in time for Baku

The finale in Australia was a real disaster for Alpine, with a huge collision between both A523 machines eliminating the team’s chance of scoring points:

“It won’t be a big deal for the budget cap, but this has changed our priorities. Now it will take a lot of effort at the factory to produce the spare parts in time for Baku and then work on the developments.

“Luckily, there are three weeks off before the next race. We hope to make it in time and not have problems for Baku and Miami,” team principal Otmar Szafnauer has explained.

The first part of the statement left insiders and the other teams perplexed, given that such a significant incident is likely to cause at least some budget cap problems.

Australian GP, ​​Melbourne - Alpine F1

The team downplayed the incident, not wanting to blame either driver – largely to avoid Pierre Gasly being penalised and receiving a race ban:

“Both apologized, which means both thought they did something wrong. Also, seeing the onboards, as much as I can try to blame one of them, I see it as a racing accident. Ocon tried to follow Tsunoda, Gasly was getting back on the ideal race line, and it happened. It can happen,” commented Szafnauer.

The next round in Azerbaijan will be important for the Enstone team to introduce an important update package.

“In Baku we will have a good package of updates and then other small things in the following rounds,” says Szafnauer.

Pat Fry, the team’s Chief Technical Officer, has further elaborated on these scheduled improvements:

“Ours is a reasonable development plan. In Baku, we expect to take a step forward, and then we will have other things for the appointments to follow.” 

The French team’s development program includes the introduction of important packages in Baku, Imola, Canada and Silverstone, with ‘minor’ parts incoming for other race weekends.

It has been important for Alpine to immediately verify there were no data correlation problems to give the team confidence to invest its time and resources in new updates.

“The correlation will never be optimal, but the data is very similar to what comes out of the simulator, and this helps us to better understand the car,” said Pat Fry, outlining that the A523 is an evolution from last year’s car:

“Mechanically, it has changed a lot. We have many more options in terms of development and setup. However, now we are still getting to know it, and up to now, we have been on three different tracks.”

Alpine has already introduced some innovations, working on areas to improve as the Halo. A flow diverter made its first appearance in Melbourne, which Fry explained is asmall change, but with a reasonably important impact on the behaviour of the rear of the car. A small step forward.”

Author: Paolo D’Alessandro
Co-Author: Andrea Vergani