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Szafnauer: Alpine can join the F1 battle for second

Alpine Formula 1 boss Otmar Szafnauer says his team’s clear target is to join the battle for second place behind dominant Red Bull Racing.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin were closely matched over the first three races of 2023, taking turns to lead the pursuit of Red Bull in qualifying and races, with the three teams clearly a step ahead of the rest.

Latterly Alpine has generally looked to be at the front of the chasing pack, although the Enstone team was hit hard by the collision that led to the retirements of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in Australia.

Nevertheless, speaking to the F1 Nation podcast, Szafnauer said that the Melbourne race indicated that the team is making good progress.

“I’m pleased with some components,” said Szafnauer when asked to sum up the season.

“We've now analysed our relative competitiveness, and we've made gains on Ferrari and Mercedes so far.

“We've lost out a little bit to Red Bull and the team that has made the most gain that we're racing, or hopefully we'll be racing against, is Aston Martin. So we've done a decent job over the winter. It could have been better, but we still haven't optimised.

“We had a decent race in Australia, running fifth until nearly the end... then a red flag, and we come together, and we lose a bunch of points. So the good news is the competitiveness was looking better at the last race, the bad news is we got zero points.

“To me the most important thing is the competitiveness. As long as we have a competitive car, the points will come.”

Szafnauer stressed that the team has to win the development race that is set to define the season.

“We're not quite where we want to be,” he said. “So therefore we have to out-develop our competition. Our development curve has to be just a little bit steeper than the others, so that we can make up those three, four-tenths of a second that we're behind.

Slotting into a new environment will still take Pierre Gasly some time

Slotting into a new environment will still take Pierre Gasly some time

Photo by: Alpine

“And I know everyone else says that too. I've seen Mercedes say a similar thing. For them to catch Red Bull, they have to be on a steeper development curve.

“So that's what we're all trying to do. And somebody will get it done. I just hope it's us. And we're working hard at making sure that it is us.”

Szafnauer made it clear that Alpine believes that if it can close the gap to the group ahead it will in effect put itself in the battle to catch leaders Red Bull.

“To me, if you're fighting for fourth this year, you're fighting for second,” he said. “It's that close. So we've got to get up there and be able to fight with Mercedes, Aston and Ferrari. I think that group of three are really fighting for second.

“And if we can get ourselves, like I said, three-tenths, four-tenths a bit quicker than the others then we will be in that fight too. And that has to be and is still our target sitting here today with only three races behind us and 20 to go."

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Szafnauer also noted that team newcomer Pierre Gasly has fitted in well, but stressed that there was more to come from the Frenchman.

“He's really, really close but I think there will be marginal gains,” he said. “It's not that he's not at one with the car, but in F1, you've got to get everything right. And it just can't be done in three races.

“You spend your entire career at either Red Bull or AlphaTauri or Toro Rosso, in that environment, and then you move to an environment that is different.

“Yeah, we're both in F1, we both have similar objectives, winning races. And we both have cars that comply with the technical regulations, and we comply with sporting and financial regulations.

“However, there's loads and loads of differences that take time to get 100% comfortable with. So there's more to come out of Pierre."

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