Otmar Szafnauer: Alpine can still fight for P2 this season

Jaden Diaz
26 Apr, 2023

Despite Alpine’s lukewarm start to 2023, team principal Otmar Szafnauer is optimistic the team can be in the mix for second place in this year’s Championship.

Alpine’s A523 was a largely unknown quantity during testing, with the French outfit reluctant to set laptimes with lower fuel and show their hand ahead of round one.

However, despite the team’s quiet confidence heading into the Bahrain GP, ​​the season opener showed the A523 was firmly in the midfield.

Although a series of mistakes from Esteban Ocon (in combination with Pierre Gasly’s poor qualifying) somewhat obscured Alpine’s potential in Bahrain, their pace was evidently not enough to challenge the front-runners.

Gasly’s impressive pace in Australia has been the only indication that Alpine could break free of the midfield, but even then – the Frenchman’s pace was largely DRS-assisted.

Thankfully for the Enstone squad, a series of updates are scheduled to arrive in the upcoming rounds to improve the A523’s performance.

As ever, Alpine has been careful to showcase optimism for its upgrades whilst simultaneously ensuring that expectations are controlled.

Speaking ahead of the Baku GP, Otmar Szafnauer has provided an optimist perspective of the team’s position:

“We have analyzed our competitiveness and made gains relative to Ferrari and Mercedes until now”, es.motorsport.com quotes him as saying.

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523. Australian Grand Prix, Friday 31st March 2023. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

“We’ve lost a little bit to Red Bull, and with some luck, we can soon fight against Aston Martin.

“So we think that we’ve done a decent job over winter, although it could have been better. But we still haven’t optimized our package.”

This analysis, whilst somewhat lenient on Alpine, seems reasonable enough. After all, the French outfit is still within touching distance of the top teams.

Criticisms can certainly be made about the team’s failure to make significant progress, but the team still has something to work with and has avoided a detrimental backward step.

However, the following comments from Szafnauer are far more ambitious:

“For me, if you are fighting for fourth place this year, then you’re also fighting for second. 

“Everything is very close, so we need to be capable of fighting with Mercedes, Aston and Ferrari. 

“I think that group of three teams is fighting for second place, and if we can achieve what I said earlier, gain three or four-tenths, we will be in that fight as well.

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team. Australian Grand Prix, Saturday 1st April 2023. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

“It’s our objective, we have only completed three races, and there are still twenty left.”

Despite Technical Director Matt Harman’s efforts to give a realistic analysis of Alpine’s upgrades, it seems Otmar Szafnauer has no intentions of staying in the midfield.

This ambition is certainly positive at face value, especially given Aston Martin’s rapid ascent over the last twelve months – which has somewhat exposed Alpine for their stagnation.

However, after several years of mentioning the ‘100-race plan’ to become F1 contenders , Szafnauer’s team must do their talking on track if they are to be considered legitimate threats moving forward.

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