‘Very beatable’ Alpine respond to McLaren threat with battle ‘very much on’

Oliver Harden
McLaren driver Lando Norris at the Canadian Grand Prix. Montreal, June 2023.

Lando Norris ahead of team-mate Oscar Piastri during the Canadian Grand Prix.

Alpine are hoping Lando Norris’s strong performance at the Austrian Grand Prix was track specific after McLaren chief executive claimed their long-terms rivals are “very beatable” in the fight for fifth in the F1 Constructors’ Championship.

McLaren claimed their best result since last October at the Austrian Grand Prix, with Norris – running the first of the team’s highly anticipated mid-season upgrades – a fixture near the front for most of the weekend and coming away with fourth place.

Having braced themselves for a difficult start to the season after missing development targets over the winter, McLaren are now hopeful of eradicating the 18-point lead currently held by fifth-place Alpine.

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

Alpine and McLaren set to lock horns in fight for fifth

Alpine and McLaren were locked in a tense fight for fourth throughout last season and look set to lock horns once again over the remaining 13 races of this campaign.

Speaking to the F1 Nation podcast after the race in Austria, Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer said the Enstone outfit are pinning their hopes on Norris’s performance being a one-off with Alpine set to hit back with an upgrade of their own at this weekend’s Austrian GP at Silverstone.

He said: “Lando looked quite quick, hopefully it’s track specific, but we’ve got an upgrade coming at Silverstone so let’s see what we can do in the next one.”

Appearing at the unveiling of McLaren’s special British GP livery, Brown told selected media including PlanetF1.com of his satisfaction with the strides the team are making under the stewardship of new team boss Andrea Stella.

And with Norris’s team-mate Oscar Piastri set to sample the upgrade for the first time at Silverstone, he says the fight for fifth is on.

He explained: “I’m very happy with everything I’m seeing out of Andrea and the racing team.

“I think from the minute I put Andrea in charge, he jumped on identifying [the reality of McLaren’s situation], we called our position out at launch, we knew we weren’t going to be strong at the start of the year. We weren’t surprised by it.

“Andrea then went about making changes rapidly and when we look at our development curve from when he restructured – moved some people around, bringing in some new people, some which have started, some that haven’t – the development rate has been much better than we saw last year.

“I think Austria was a great validation that we thought we’d be pretty strong. Now we need to make sure that continues on these other races and that it wasn’t track specific.

“We’ve got a lot more development coming. I wouldn’t want to predict where we’ll be – our desires is to be mingling with the top-four teams like we did this weekend – [but] obviously there’s a big points gap to the top-four teams so whether we can catch that is probably a tall order.

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“I think the battle with Alpine and others for fifth is very much on, but [I] hope that we continue with this development race and we have more weekends like we had this weekend where we’re playing with the top-four teams on a pure-pace basis.

“I think they’re definitely beatable. It’s going be tough. I think they’ve got a fast race car and two drivers that have the ability to run at the front, but I’m sure they’ve got upgrades coming.

“We’ll have Oscar’s car where Lando’s was [in Austria], Lando will have some some further upgrades that Oscar will have one race on and then we do have, as other teams do. upgrades [coming] throughout the year, one more significant upgrade coming later in the year.

“So I feel like we’re in the race with Alpine now and I think we can’t make any mistakes. We’re got o have a good, reliable car, get our pitstops right, get our launches right, not have any lucky incidents, which is part of racing but I think the fight’s definitely gone with Alpine for the balance of the year.”

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