Potential for change in Chinese GP pecking order as struggling team fast-tracks upgrade

Jamie Woodhouse
Shanghai International Circuit.

The Shanghai International Circuit returns to the F1 calendar for the first time since 2019.

Alpine face a very important test at the Chinese Grand Prix as a major upgrade arrives ahead of schedule, with the team in dire need of performance after a poor start to F1 2024.

After hitting what they believed to be the performance ceiling with their old concept, Alpine went down a totally different route with their F1 2024 challenger, the A524. But so far, that decision has backfired in a major way, with the team still searching for their first point of the season.

Upgrade planned for Miami arrives in China for Alpine

With pressure mounting on the French outfit, light has potentially emerged at the end of the tunnel as an upgrade planned for the next round in Miami will instead be brought forward to this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

According to Motorsport.com, the upgrade focuses on the A524 floor and will be available to Esteban Ocon only at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Alpine began their A524 development programme at the previous round in Japan, with a revised front wing among the changes.

Team principal Bruno Famin though says that the Japanese Grand Prix highlighted just how long the journey ahead is, as Ocon crossed the line P15 and team-mate Pierre Gasly P16.

“The last race in Japan underlined how big a challenge we have on our hands to improve our performance level,” said Famin.

“We must develop the performance of the car in order to fight for higher positions. While it was good to bring the first updates to the car in Suzuka, we must do more.

“The team has been working extremely hard and we have been able to bring an upgrade to one car this weekend, one race earlier than planned.”

Formula 1 heads back to the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time since 2019, Famin admitting that historical data is not of great value now that Formula 1 is in the era of ground effect cars, as he confirmed that both Ocon and Gasly have been hard at work in the simulator.

And add to the fact that this is the first F1 2024 Sprint event, it means Alpine have a tough task on their hands to make the best of this race weekend.

“The cars are completely different to the 2019-spec, so preparation has been different to normal,” said Famin.

“Matched with the fact it is a sprint event, we have less preparation and therefore it is crucial to be dialled in from the get-go. Both drivers were in Enstone last week on the simulator and putting the time in to be best ready for the challenge.”

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It is a turbulent time at present for Alpine, who recently have been forced to shut down speculation that parent company Renault are considering selling the team.

Famin assured this is not the case, while claiming “previous management” are responsible for the current predicament.

Senior figures to have departed Alpine over the last year include CEO Laurent Rossi, team principal Otmar Szafnauer, sporting director Alan Permane, chief technical officer Pat Fry, technical director Matt Harman and aerodynamics chief Dirk de Beer.

“We have a real project with Alpine,” Famin told the Formula 1 website.

“We have the project to develop the Alpine brand awareness globally through motorsport and Formula 1 in particular.

“We have the full support of the top management. The team is absolutely not for sale. We will keep pushing to reach our goals.

“The car we have now is the result of previous management. But what is important is what we are doing now. And I’m happy with what we are doing. Of course the way is very long, and we have a lot to improve.”

Both Ocon and Gasly are currently out of contract at Alpine as it stands come the end of F1 2024.

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