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Alpine’s Confidence Despite Average Preseason Test: Here’s Why



Alpine Confidence Despite Average Preseason Test Here Why

Despite finishing pre-season testing with the slowest time out of all 10 teams, Alpine’s team principal Otmar Szafnauer remains “cautiously optimistic” heading into the Formula 1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The reason for this optimism is not entirely clear. Although Alpine completed a healthy amount of 353 laps in three days of running, which is more than struggling McLaren, their best lap of the test was still 2.457s slower than the pacesetter Red Bull. Therefore, on paper, it does not appear to be a strong start to the season for Alpine.

Despite their slowest time during pre-season testing, Alpine is optimistic about their ability to close the gap to the front in terms of relative pace, as their average deficit last year was 1.378%.

Even though Alpine was around 1.2s slower based on the fastest times during testing, they remain hopeful that they can perform well. This belief is shared by their rivals, who also expect Alpine to do well, and F1Lead has even ranked them fifth in their ranking of where they think the teams stand going into the new season. This optimism is based on more than just blind faith, as Alpine had a focused program during testing that gives them hope for the season ahead.

According to technical director Dan Harman, the Alpine A523 car has undergone significant changes, with around 95% of the car being completely new, except for one major component – the front half of the monocoque. The rear part of the monocoque had to be redesigned due to the changes made to the rear suspension.

During testing, there were a few minor issues that arose, which Harman primarily attributed to the team getting familiar with new systems on the car. Esteban Ocon also noted that his lack of running on the second day was due to slow set-up changes, but he clarified that it wasn’t a fundamental issue.

This seems to be related to the extensively redesigned pushrod rear suspension, which Harman described as a simplified and lighter system at the launch. It is evident that working with this new suspension caused some problems during testing.


According to Harman, the Alpine A523 car has performed as expected during testing. However, the operational aspects of the car, particularly the need to quickly optimize and change it during a session, have caused some headaches for the team. Despite this, the team has managed to address and fix these issues.

Alpine slow pre-season test

Harman clarified that mechanically, the system is working as expected, with the expected mass and aerodynamics coming in as planned.

However, he suggested that in the future, the team needs to do more pre-prep to ensure they can make changes during the session as quickly as they would like. This would allow them to avoid losing track time and optimize their performance.

Harman further noted that if he had to pick something for the team to fall a little behind the curve on, it would have been the operational aspects of the car. He justified this by stating that the team has already fixed the issue, and it only took them a day to address it.

It is not uncommon for teams to face challenges while familiarizing themselves with new designs during testing, and it seems that the operational issues faced by the Alpine team are not an ongoing problem. Furthermore, Harman indicated that the car worked as expected, despite not being run at its full potential during testing.

Harman stated that the team has a level of confidence despite not running the car at its full potential during testing. However, he acknowledged that there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to comparing their performance with that of other teams, as they don’t know what others are running. Nevertheless, he believes that the car is responding as expected, with the aerodynamics working as planned. The team has also tried out some interesting developments during testing, which have shown positive results.

Alpine slow pre-season test

Pierre Gasly’s best lap during testing was 2.457s off the pace, but this result is not necessarily representative of the true potential of the car.


The lap was set during daytime running on the final day, when the track was not at its quickest, and Gasly was using the C3 Pirelli tires, which are slower than the C4 tires by 0.4-0.5s, according to Pirelli. The C3 tires will be used as the soft compound for the race weekend.

Furthermore, Alpine is known to have been running with a relatively heavy fuel load during that run and was also cautious with its use of engine settings during the test. Despite these factors, the team has a clear idea that its true pace is significantly better, and the lap times during testing are not indicative of the car’s full potential.

Szafnauer explained that the team made a deliberate decision not to engage in low-fuel running during testing because they did not want to sacrifice the learning opportunities that come with running heavier fuel loads. The team felt that the benefits of running on a heavier fuel load outweighed the potential gains from running on a lighter fuel load, which would have required sacrificing valuable learning opportunities.

Alpine slow pre-season test

Although Alpine did not run full race simulations during testing, their long-run pace showed promising signs of competitiveness, with two long runs suggesting that their pace might be on par with Mercedes for the fourth-best position. F1Lead’s analysis of the long-run pace estimated a deficit of around 0.6s to benchmark Red Bull.

Both drivers provided positive feedback about the long-run pace, and Szafnauer cited it as the reason for his optimism heading into the season. He mentioned that despite not taking out the fuel yet to see what they can do over one lap, the team’s long-run pace looks promising, and they have received positive feedback from the drivers about the car’s predictability and absence of gremlins or snappiness.

During testing, the Alpine appeared to be the stiffest car and the most responsive to bumps on the track, but this was intentional. Harman stated that the team wanted to “exercise the envelope” to understand how aggressively the car could be run in terms of ride heights and suspension settings to maximize ground-effect performance. There are no concerns that the car has a porpoising problem.

Both drivers, Gasly and Ocon, looked confident on track, with Gasly potentially appearing slightly more confident than Ocon. Both drivers provided positive feedback about the balance and performance of the car.

Alpine slow pre-season test

Gasly struggled with the AlphaTauri car last year, particularly in terms of stability on corner entry, which he requires to attack the corner. However, he expressed optimism about the Alpine car, saying that he feels there is good potential, and he’s able to fine-tune the balance slowly to where it suits his driving style. Gasly also mentioned that they have a good baseline to work from, and he can tell that they are not too far away from maximizing the package.

He explained that during the three-day testing, the team tried big set-up differences to understand how the package works. Still, slowly they were able to narrow down to a set-up that works for the car, and they are heading in the right direction. Gasly’s positive feedback about the car suggests that the team has made progress in addressing the issues he faced with the AlphaTauri car last year.


Alpine has an aggressive upgrade strategy planned for the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, building on the consistent progress made during 2022. The team has new parts planned for introduction during the race weekend, which are expected to be a significant upgrade for the car.

The team aims to move forward with what they learned during testing to not only improve the car’s performance for the first race but also its future development. Harman emphasized that the team wants to be as aggressive as they were last year, if not more so.

The details of the modifications to the car have not been revealed yet, but there are expected to be some visible differences. The upgrades are part of the team’s efforts to close the gap to the front and improve their competitiveness.

Despite Alpine’s promising performance during testing and their aggressive upgrade strategy, there is one concern for the team – the pace of Aston Martin.

Aston Martin is one of Alpine’s natural rivals among the upwardly-mobile outfits in the midfield, and the team’s pace could pose a challenge for Alpine in the upcoming races. This is something the team will need to keep a close eye on as the season progresses.

While Alpine was stronger than Aston Martin last year, and as a more mature and established team, should have greater performance potential, the pace displayed during testing did not look as compelling as Aston Martin’s. Although it remains to be seen how this will play out over the course of the season, Aston Martin’s performance in testing suggests that they could be a genuine threat to cause an upset and challenge Alpine’s position in the midfield.

As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see how these two teams perform relative to each other.


While falling behind Aston Martin would be disappointing for Alpine, it would be tolerable as long as the team’s overall deficit to the front is reduced, which is the key priority for this season.

Alpine has set similar targets before, such as in 2019 when they aimed to close the gap to the big three after taking fourth in the constructors’ championship as Renault, but regressed instead. However, there is nothing in testing to suggest that the same is happening again, and the team looks poised to perform well and put themselves in a strong position clear of the rest of the midfield group.

The true test of their performance will come during qualifying in Bahrain, where we will get a better understanding of whether their performance during testing was as promising as it seemed.

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