Otmar Szafnauer believes such was Alpine’s development rate this season only Mercedes were “maybe” on a par with them.
Alpine finished the 2022 championship ‘best of the rest’ ahead of McLaren but there was a moment when they hit the track for pre-season testing that the team was a bit concerned.
Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi has spoken of how it was a bit of a “shambles” when they arrived at the Barcelona circuit for testing with Alpine then starting the season in “bad shape”. They still managed a double-points haul in the opening race in Bahrain, though.
In fact Alpine scored in all but two races this season with the team’s best result being Esteban Ocon’s P4 at the Japanese Grand Prix. With 81 points on the board midway through the season, the team more than doubled their tally in the second half to finish on 173 points.
Szafnauer has applauded their development with the 58-year-old saying it went unmatched by all the other teams except “maybe” Mercedes.
“The first test had its problems for a couple of reasons,” he explained to the media including PlanetF1. “Mainly because we did not want to push the performance envelope and that means a couple of things.
“One, taking risks on the engines on the performance side and being conservative on reliability side, and we’ve seen that but we can fix the reliability.
“And two, with the chassis to push performance just means you have to iterate longer before you release parts for the real car. That means you’re under pressure to produce them on time and if anything goes wrong with the production it’s quite critical.
“We did both things last year.
“That meant at the beginning we were struggling a bit but then once we got on top of having enough car parts, starting to understand the car then the updates came.
“We have to look… I don’t know I haven’t looked at the upgrade slope, the slope of improvement to see how we fared with some of the others.
“But I think we’re one of the best from where we started to where we ended up. Maybe Mercs up there, too.”
‘We clearly developed the car well’
Ocon finished the season eighth in the Drivers’ Championship with 92 points, 11 ahead of Fernando Alonso.
The Frenchman also applauded Alpine’s development path, saying the team “stepped up” midway through the season.
“We clearly developed the car well, gave good feedback early on for the team to develop the car, and they managed to translate that,” he said.
“By mid-year, we clearly stepped up as a team, made some strong performances after that, where we get fifth place quite often – fifth place is obviously big points – and qualified fifth quite a few times as well.
“So, it has been a good season, I think, in that regard.”
Like Alonso, though, he had a fair few amount of reliability issues that cost him points and recorded two retirements. Alonso had six, four in the final seven races alone that left the Aston Martin-bound driver frustrated.
Ocon said of his team-mate’s complaints: “I broke the gearbox in Imola, I broke the car in Silverstone, I [had a] DNF in Singapore. I can count them as well on my side. I think we’ve both had issues.”
He added that he supported the team’s decision to go for performance over reliability.
“We are happy with the strategy of the team, to push the pace of the car in front of the reliability,” he added. “And that was always the aim of the team.”