Otmar Szafnauer says he is confident Alpine can give Fernando Alonso the machinery required to compete towards the sharp end of the field this season.
Alonso was in scintillating form in qualifying in Australia in particular. But for a hydraulic failure in his power steering during Q3, he insisted he would have been in the hunt for a grid slot in the top three as a minimum – and his first two sectors had almost matched Charles Leclerc’s eventual pole lap time.
Alpine have shown flashes of speed this season so far, but their team principal remains pragmatic and hopes to see the team out-develop those around them this year – while also being aware of the timeframe in which to enable Alonso to compete.
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“Because he is 40 years old? I hope so,” Szafnauer responded when asked by AS if the team can produce a fast car quickly enough for Alonso to get the most out of it.
“I remember when I was 40 and I didn’t get tired. Now I’m 57 and I do get tired. This year, what we have to do with Fernando, and also with Esteban [Ocon], is to improve the car more than the others.
“If we do that, what we learn this year we can apply it next year. At the end of the year we will be able to see how our learning has been, compared to the rest.
“We will give Fernando the car he needs. We’ll see how the season goes – it’s just started – but I don’t think we did a bad job in the winter. We will improve during the season, we will go up.”
Alonso said in the past few weeks he hopes to stay in Formula 1 for another two or three years, be it with Alpine or otherwise.
His future with Alpine is not yet certain beyond the end of the season, with young hotshot and reserve driver Oscar Piastri waiting in the wings for a race seat in 2023.
Szafnauer admitted the pressure to get last year’s Formula 2 champion onto the grid next season will ramp up as the season progresses and the team principal said they will take their time to work out their next steps.
“I don’t know what he means here, of course,” Szafnauer said of Alonso’s previous words. “But I hope so – Fernando is a great asset, a World Champion, a gigantic help to be competitive on the track. In the meantime, we have him this year.
“These future decisions will come in July or August when the ‘silly season’ starts. And until then we will learn a lot about the car and I’m sure he will have more information to make a decision.”
Alonso still racing at the 'very highest level'
Alpine sporting director believes Fernando Alonso is still driving at the "very highest level", as he was when he won his two World titles.