Alpine brought the curtain down on 2023’s Formula 1 launch season with a flashy event at Printworks in London. F1 Correspondent Lawrence Barretto was there as the team set their focus on slashing the gap to the ‘big three’…
After spending a year assessing the Enstone operation – that has previously run under the Benetton and Renault banner – Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi gave the team an ambitious but realistic 100-race plan that would ideally see the team fighting for “as many podiums as possible” in 2024.
Rossi is aware there are no quick fixes in F1 – so he set a goal of consistent progress. Alpine hit their first target in 2022, beating McLaren to finish best-of-the-rest fourth in the constructors’ championship.
Such a strong result boosted their brand and has translated into strong sales of their road car. The more successful that side of the business is, the more resource can funnel back into the F1 team to strengthen their chase of the silverware. The plan right now is working – but there remains work to do.
The A522 was a quick but at times brittle machine. There were a string of retirements, mostly on Fernando Alonso’s side – much to the double world champion’s irritation, but the speed enabled the team to consistently fight for top-six positions and the big points that came with them.
The high risk, high reward strategy was key to them beating McLaren by 14 points. And while they were a massive 342 points behind third-placed Mercedes come the end of the year – that wasn’t their fight for 2022.
They had made step forward and there were a flurry of elements that bode well for them pulling away from the midfield and closer to the ‘big three’.
Key to Alpine’s success last season was starting the campaign with a good baseline car that offered plenty of development opportunity.
Led by Technical Director Matt Harman – who has a wealth of experience working at multiple world champions Mercedes – the team brought upgrades to every single race. They all added performance, with two sizeable floor upgrades delivering a particularly pleasing gain in pace.
The team have stuck with their attacking approach this season with Harman saying the aim is to “be even more aggressive” with their upgrade plan this year. “We’re definitely excited by what we have lined up in terms of development,” he adds.
A night full of surprises as Alpine launch their A523
The launch-spec A523 is a “significant evolution” of last year’s car say the team, with changes to the front and rear suspension. They’ve also unlocked some performance from the front wing and front flow structures, which in turn means the diffuser is set to deliver more amid a different rear suspension concept.
At the rear, Harman says they’ve improved efficiency from the rear wing, particularly the beam wing element which is “yielding high levels of efficiency gain”.
It’s a car that should give Esteban Ocon, set for his fourth season with the Enstone team, and new arrival Pierre Gasly the opportunity to kick on. Both are race winners and have known each since their karting days.
They fell out many years ago but both insist that is water under the bridge and they are fully focused on delivering a cohesive all-French driver line-up that can drag performance out of the car on a consistent basis.
Ocon says he is “stronger than ever” ahead into the new season and is targeting big points every weekend with the hope of the odd podium. Gasly subscribes to the same goals, the Frenchman convinced that it’s only “a matter of time” before Alpine reach the front of the grid based what he’s seen in his short time with the team.
There is no doubt that Alpine know they have a lot of work to do to join the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes at the front of the pack as race-winning contenders.
But they firmly believe they have a facility, the personnel and a works power unit from Renault that is increasingly better integrated with the aero from Enstone to haul themselves into contention in the future.
The next step in reaching that target is to continue where they left off last year, using their resources to get bang for their buck and slashing that huge three figure points deficit to the next best.
It will be no easy feat, but Alpine do have the momentum – and a hungry driver line-up eager to make France proud.