Why changing one engine component has bolstered Alpine’s reliability confidence

Thomas Maher
Alpine's Fernando Alonso watches on after retiring from the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix. Marina Bay, September 2022.

Alpine's Fernando Alonso watches on after retiring from the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix. Marina Bay, September 2022.

Alpine have made a change to their engine architecture, and are subsequently far more confident in their power unit reliability for 2023.

Alpine struggled for reliability on the power unit side of their car in 2022, with Fernando Alonso bearing the brunt of the mechanical problems that afflicted the team.

The Spaniard retired from four of the last seven races of 2022, with Alpine suffering a calamitous double retirement in Singapore as both Alonso and Esteban Ocon were sidelined with engine problems from strong positions – a double DNF that threatened their fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship as McLaren relentlessly pursued.

While an engine freeze is in place to prevent power unit development, which came into effect at the start of 2022 and will remain in place until the end of the current regulations in 2025, reliability-focused development is permitted – the FIA have a strict process in place to allow for such development, with all information regarding the work being carried out disseminated throughout the engine manufacturers in order to allow them to ‘self-police’.

Alpine’s water pump the culprit for 2022 issues

Alpine have opened up on the changes they’ve had to make to their power unit in order to improve reliability for 2023, highlighting that a particular component proved particularly problematic last year.

Speaking at the launch of the new Alpine A523, Bruno Famin addressed the media, including PlanetF1.com, to explain the situation.

“What we have been doing is trying to solve this,” said the executive director of Renault’s power unit department at Viry-Chatillon.

“Our main problem last year was the water pump – we had some other issues like a connection on the oil system [such as] the two big failures we had in Singapore.

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“Mainly the major part of our reliability issues in 2022 was due to the water pump. Unfortunately, the location itself of the water pump was problematic. To change it, we had to make some modifications for the new location on the car itself.

“That’s why it was just not possible to change it during the season last year. Very quickly, we saw that the problem would be almost impossible to solve totally during the season. So we tried to improve or to reduce the risk of failure. We decided to work on the new car, we changed our water pump and the location of the water pump and this is what we have done on the A523.”

Endurance dyno tests have thrown up no issues for Alpine power unit

Usually, when an engine manufacturer makes a change in the name of reliability, it comes with a happy coincidental performance increase. But Famin dispelled any notion of a performance uptick, but confirmed the change won’t have a detrimental effect on the Renault power unit either.

“There is no impact on the car performance,” he said, before elaborating on how confident Alpine are that their power units will show a marked improvement in reliability this season.

“I’m as confident as it is possible to be before the first race because all the dyno tests are OK. We made endurance tests with no problem. But the dyno is the dyno, the track is the track – let’s see on the track. We are as confident as we can be.”