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How no DRS and heavy fuel load disguised Alpine's F1 test progress

Alpine says not running DRS in testing and using deliberately heavy fuel loads disguised the step forward it believes it has made with its new Formula 1 car.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon had a low-key week at the first Barcelona pre-season test, before running was cut short by an hydraulics problem on the final day.

But even though the team never featured near the top of the timesheets, Alpine thinks a combination of factors meant its true potential was never going to be on display.

One of the key contributors was a decision not to run DRS in the test – which was worth around seven tenths of a second per lap – but the team also elected to run heavier on fuel at the test than it normally would.

And having finally found a good setup with the car on the final morning, which helped Alonso deliver his fastest lap of the test, its running was cut short by a split hydraulic pipe that triggered a car fire.

Sporting director Alan Permane said the DRS and fuel factors automatically held back its laptimes, but believed the reality was the team had a better week than it looked from the outside.

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“I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses, and I'm not saying we're going to go out and beat Mercedes and Red Bull, but I think we are in a decent position,” he said.

“The lap Fernando did [on the final] morning, although it was only one lap, it's very comparable to what [Max] Verstappen did at the same time, albeit Verstappen is using DRS.

“If you overlay the GPS, which we can do with the systems we have from the FIA, the traces are almost identical apart from the straights where we lose a huge amount of time.

“Fernando was super happy with the car. We found some significant stuff on setup overnight and we've really calmed the rear of the car down.

“Had we put another C3 on at that point, there was going to be another three or four tenths, and then all of a sudden you're looking very, very close.

“I don't want to say everything's fine and we are completely chilled. Of course, we're concerned. But it's in no way are we going to be at the bottom of the timesheets.

“My gut feel is that we are probably a little bit closer to the front than we were at the end of last year.”

Marshals assist as Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, stops with technical issues as smoke rises from the car

Marshals assist as Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, stops with technical issues as smoke rises from the car

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The decision by Alpine not to run DRS was made on the opening day, and was triggered by some concerns it had about high-speed aero loads.

The team has no concerns that the issue won't be addressed in time for the next test in Bahrain.

“It was just something on the car and we were just not comfortable,” added Permane. “I'll be honest with you, it's related to top speed so it's a load thing. We're just being cautious.

“It's not that we can't do it, or we're scared or we're worried about anything, or we think something's going to break. We're just being cautious.

“We just thought, let's just not take the risk. Let's just use this week to fill miles and then go to Bahrain with everything ready to go there.

“It's a shame because it's a big performance gain, it's over seven tenths per lap for us around here. So it's a big old chunk of laptime. But that's just where we are.”

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