Otmar Szfanuaer, Alpine team principal, appears unshaken in his belief that the A523 can compete closer to the front of the F1 grid this season.
The French outfit suffered a calamitous weekend in Azerbaijan, featuring a series of reliability failures, crash damages and – most importantly – a total of zero points.
Szafnauer has explained that poor set-up decision was the team’s fundamental issue in Baku, with the early enforcement of parc ferme regulations compounding their early mistake.
However, with the upcoming Miami GP, he remains confident that Alpine can demonstrate a far more encouraging pace than what was shown in the streets of Baku.
After all, as Szafnauer has argued post-race, Alpine has already proven its pace at the Australian GP:
“We demonstrated our race pace in Australia, and we have a better chance to validate our upgrade package in Miami.
“We must keep working hard as a team, keep up our understanding of how to maximize the most from our package and target a much-improved overall team performance next weekend Stateside.”
On the surface level, the statements made by Szafnauer could be reasonable. After all, Pierre Gasly was running closely behind Carlos Sainz and ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll for most of the Australian GP.
However, a deeper analysis of the Frenchman’s pace shows that his performance can largely be attributed to staying within DRS.
Whilst Gasly no doubt deserves praise for keeping within one second of Sainz, estimates suggest that the four DRS zones in Albert Park were worth a total of 7 tenths per lap.
Esteban Ocon’s pace in Australia can be used as a comparison – especially given how closely matched the two Alpine drivers have been so far.
Gasly gained approximately 1 second in the DRS sections of the track compared to his teammate, which largely undermines Szafnuaer’s confidence in Australia as evidence for the A523’s pace.
Therefore, when combining Alpine’s pace in Melbourne with their pace at Bahrain, Jeddah and Baku, placing the French squad at the front of the midfield seems the fairest estimation of their performance.
So when considering Szafnauer’s ambitious statements about potentially fighting the top four teams for second in the constructors, there is clearly plenty of work to do.
McLaren’s improved form is also a concern for the Enstone team, who could do well to ensure they don’t slip further backwards before they look ahead.