Alpine boss points to external supplier as cause for reliability concerns

Thomas Maher
Alpine driver Esteban Ocon racing at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Alpine's Esteban Ocon racing at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Alpine’s Otmar Szafnauer says a third-party supplier is looking into the issue that caused Esteban Ocon’s retirement from the British Grand Prix.

Esteban Ocon retired from the British Grand Prix after just 10 laps, when Alpine brought him into the pits after the French driver suffered a hydraulic leak on his car.

Ocon had been challenging for a lower points place at the point of his retirement and, when Pierre Gasly was forced out later in the race due to suspension damage following a clash with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, it was the third race of the year in which Alpine failed to score points, and their second double retirement with their Australian GP collision being the first.

Otmar Szafnauer reluctant to name third-party supplier

Last year, a string of water pump failures led team boss Otmar Szafnauer to point to supplier Bosch as the cause of several frustrating race retirements.

He confirmed that the part that failed on Ocon’s car was not Alpine-manufactured as he spoke to media, including PlanetF1.com, after the British Grand Prix.

“It’s a part we buy. It’s a part that’s usually pretty robust and rarely fails,” he said.

“It leaked – it leaked from an area where I think we adjust pressure.”

Szafnauer admitted that Bosch had not been happy about being named last year and, as a result, was reluctant to reveal the name of the supplier that supplied the component that failed on Ocon’s car, but emphasised that it was a different supplier.

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 driver sackings: The most brutal firings and bitter disputes in F1 history

All the mid-season driver swaps Red Bull have made in their F1 history

As for whether Alpine need to put more robust checks in place to ensure a higher quality assurance of components coming from external suppliers, Szafnauer explained the process from his standpoint.

“What we do, just so you know on suppliers, we have a quality assurance programme where we go out and review their quality processes and procedures, so that we’re happy that when we get a part from them that’s gone through the right [checks],” he said.

“But, generally with suppliers where we supply them a design, they make a part to our design. So we have that process in place so we can be assured that, when we choose a supplier, they have all the quality operating systems in place.

“With big companies that are even better at that kind of stuff, we don’t. So if we buy, I don’t know, wheels or if we buy ATL fuel cells or some of those components – this is one of them.

“They will go back, find the root cause, write a report, show us what happened, and tell us how it’s never going to happen again.”

Otmar Szafnauer: Non-scores are very painful

Having had another race go begging, falling to sixth in the Constructors’ Championship as rivals like Aston Martin and McLaren have come on song, Szafnauer was asked about the pain of a non-scoring race.

“Non-scores are very painful, especially when you have the pace to score,” he said.

“We were behind Fernando in the first stint before the Safety Car came out. He finished seventh, so we should have been eighth.”

But Szafnauer confirmed further upgrades are coming to the A523 soon: “Our upgrades have worked this year, and there’s another significant one coming before the break. The swing of relative competitiveness does that kind of stuff. So yeah, I’m looking forward to our next one.”

Asked by PlanetF1.com whether the season is getting away from Alpine as the halfway point looms, Szafnauer admitted his team needs a change in fortune.

“Last year, we were not too dissimilar except for the fact Aston Martin was well behind all the rest of us,” he said.

“I’ll have to look after this race but we were closer to Mercedes and Ferrari, and we maintained our relative difference to Red Bull.

“But Aston just jumped us and some others so it looks like that and, if we look at the points table, we’re sixth now, which is not where we want to be. So we need to start scoring some points.”

Read Next: Exclusive Q&A: Franz Tost on retirement, Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s succession plan