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Formula 1 Bahrain GP

Alpine "doesn't know true pace" after troubled Bahrain F1 weekend

Otmar Szafnauer says his Alpine team still doesn't know how competitive its 2023 Formula 1 car is after both drivers saw their Bahrain Grand Prix weekends derailed.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Alex Albon, Williams FW45

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Alpine's form was one of the main question marks after pre-season testing, in which it didn't set fast times on Pirelli's softest compounds.

But the race weekend revealed only a glimpse about Alpine's true place in the pecking order as both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly ran into issues.

Ocon qualified ninth but then faced three time penalties in the race before he retired.

Gasly started last after making a mistake in Q1 on an aggressive set-up, but then he excelled in the race by moving up the order to ninth.

Ocon's qualifying pace and Gasly's race-day comeback both highlighted Alpine's potential, but team principal Szafnauer is still in the dark on what it can achieve when it executes a clean weekend.

"We still don't know its true pace because of some of the operational things that happened in the race," Szafnauer said.

"Esteban had all of his issues that we talked about, Pierre was stuck in 19th for quite some time at the beginning.

"I'm looking at lap times and if you ever watch a race between the guys up front and the guys at the back, [in the same car] you can be two seconds a lap different just because of where you're racing.

"So, I still don't know where we are relative just because we're out of position with one car and the other car had the problems we talked about. I don't think we're far off."

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Logan Sargeant, Williams FW45

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Logan Sargeant, Williams FW45

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Gasly's strong final stint on the soft tyres, in which he almost caught Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas ahead of him, has suggested that Alpine was the fifth-quickest car in Bahrain.

Having been leapfrogged by Aston Martin compared to last year, Szafnauer says its main goal is to "outdevelop" them as it still aims to hang on to fourth.

But even in the short term he's confident the Enstone team will score "plenty of points" just by executing clean weekends.

"I think we were about 16 seconds behind Bottas at that point, and we caught him but couldn't overtake in the end. So I think that stint worked well," Szafnauer said.

"Looking at it from an optimistic standpoint and say if Pierre had started ninth, we would have beaten Bottas for sure.

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"How close would we have been to the Mercedes and I think [Lance] Stroll? They were 16 seconds ahead of us, we need to have a look.

"Now we just need to outdevelop them so we can close a gap to those guys we want to beat.

"Esteban being out of position at the start, he'll learn from that. Operationally, we can look forward to having smooth, trouble-free races.

"And if that happens, Pierre qualifies where he can qualify and we've got both of them in the top 10 positions, then I think we'll score plenty of points and then we'll fight for fourth."

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