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Alpine: F1 2022 engine performance gain worth reliability risks

Alpine Formula 1 team boss Otmar Szafnauer is confident that Renault made the right choice in pushing for power unit performance in 2022, even if reliability was compromised.

Marshals remove the car of Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, from the circuit

The team has suffered more reliability problems than most rivals, costing valuable ground in the battle with McLaren for fourth in the constructors' world championship. Alpine is currently in front by just seven points.

In Mexico, Fernando Alonso lost seventh place in the closing laps after suffering a cylinder issue that obliged him to stop.

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Szafnauer insists that problems have largely resulted from a general push for performance with the power unit, and that they can be resolved over the winter.

"We mustn't forget that at the beginning of the year we set out - and this was before I was here, but I think it was the right decision on the powertrain side - to err on the side of performance," he said.

"Because the powertrain was going to be frozen, we made a conscious decision to push the performance envelope and fix reliability issues as we got to them, because the FIA allows that. So that was a conscious and strategic decision.

"And now when we face them, we can fix them. We didn't do it on purpose to not be reliable.

"But if you have to err on that side, you push the performance boundary, because you can't add performance now until 2026, you can fix reliability issues.

"And we can do it over the winter. So strategically, I think it was the right thing to do. And we still have two races left to finish in fourth. I think we can do that."

Asked by Autosport if it was frustrating to lose valuable points in Mexico, he said: "I'll tell you my frustration after Abu Dhabi! For sure you want to score more points."

Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1 Team, climbs out of his car after retiring from the race

Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1 Team, climbs out of his car after retiring from the race

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Szafnauer acknowledged that it doesn't matter what margin Alpine beats McLaren by, as long as the team can stay in front.

"No, not at this point," he said.

"And then over the winter, we'll make even more reliability improvements. You can't improve the performance, it is what it is. And we'll be better off.

"But we've got to remember this powertrain has to last until 2026. So for sure, it was the right strategy.

"I think we're on a good trajectory. And let's see what next year brings.

"But the short term is reliability in the next few races, finish strong, and I think our performance will be there."

Szafnauer says that the Renault engine division in Viry-Chatillon knows what it has to do, having fixed other issues earlier in the season.

"Yeah, more than I do, for example," he said.

"So I was asking them about the [Mexico] cylinder failure. And then although I spent seven and a half years at Honda powertrains, they've got a much deeper understanding and they'll figure it out.

"But like I said, strategically that's what we set out to do. Every time we have an issue, we fix it.

"It doesn't come back. So this was a little bit different than what we had in Singapore."

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