Alpine have acknowledged an engine-related grid penalty for Fernando Alonso is inevitable – and it’s now about when to take it.
Alonso has experienced engine problems in both of the first two races of the 2022 season, the second of which caused him to retire from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The issue was a very simple one which caused a brand-new engine to be ditched after only one race, putting Alpine well and truly on the back foot regarding their quota for the campaign.
After Jeddah, Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi revealed the problem had been caused by the water pump “disintegrating and falling into the engine”, which team principal Otmar Szafnauer says is easily resolved on other units despite having ruined the one used in Saudi Arabia.
That ICE had been installed after Alonso’s for Bahrain had hit problems, although that one can be used again.
“The two issues are not linked,” Szafnauer told Motorsport.com. “In Bahrain, Fernando finished the race and it was precautionary that we had to take it back to Viry and run it on the dyno. It’s fine and it will go back into the pool.
“However, the one in Saudi, which was a new engine because we had taken the Bahrain one back to have a look at it, had a water pump failure. And because of the water pump failure, that engine will not run again.
“The [water pump] fix is done already so it won’t happen again. It was an easy fix, which is frustrating as it’s just a water pump.”
The maximum permitted number of engines per driver for a season is three, which means two more for the 21 remaining races is practically impossible – hence the inevitable grid penalty.
“I don’t know when that penalty will come. We’ll figure it out and do what’s right,” said the Romania-born 57-year-old.
“If there are circumstances throughout the year when we can minimise that we’ll take the new engine then, if we need to.”
Rossi had previously given more details about the technical aspects of what had happened in Jeddah, where Alonso’s car ground to a halt in the pit lane.
He said there had been a “cooling defect and subsequently a cascade of events – the engine cooled less, the oil heated up, etc, creating more worries.
“Fernando was able to continue driving and the engine was working but obviously in less than ideal conditions. We preferred to stop him. The water pump had failed.
“The problem is this accessory (water pump) is integrated into the engine. The water pump ended up disintegrating and falling into the engine.
“If we had wanted to repair it, we would have had to break the seal. So the engine is lost to us. Even if its physical integrity is not directly affected, for us it is one engine less.”
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