Otmar Szafnauer believes Alpine’s engine reliability, which played second fiddle to performance this year, can be rectified over the winter.
Alpine made no bones about their preference being greater speed from the Renault power unit in 2022 to try and bridge the gap to the teams at the front with their Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull engines.
Laurent Rossi, the Alpine CEO, had urged Renault to “explore the limits as much as possible” rather than “sit there comfortably with a reliable power unit that doesn’t perform”.
Those words have come back to haunt him though, and Fernando Alonso has now retired five times this season with his latest DNF occurring due to another engine problem at the Mexican Grand Prix.
After Esteban Ocon had, like Alonso, exited the Singapore GP, Alpine’s chief technical officer Pat Fry admitted they had been “caught out” by the engine gremlins this year – which have left the team exposed to being pipped to fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship by McLaren.
Szafnauer, who joined Alpine last winter from Aston Martin as team principal, said work to remedy the problem will take place in the off-season.
“We mustn’t forget that at the beginning of the year, we set out – and this was before I was here, but I think it was the right decision on the powertrain side – to err on the side of performance,” said Szafnauer, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“Because the powertrain was going to be frozen [due to the regulations]. So we made a conscious decision to push the performance envelope and fix reliability issues as we got to them because the FIA allow that. So that was a conscious and strategic decision.
“And now when we face them, we can fix them. We didn’t do it on purpose to not be reliable. But if you have to err on that side you push the performance boundary – because you can’t add performance now until 2026 [but] you can fix reliability issues.
“And we can do it over the winter. So strategically, I think it was the right thing to do. And we still have two races left to finish fourth. I think we can do that.”
Szafnauer remains hopeful that 2023 will be a much less turbulent year for Alpine on the engine front.
“Over the winter, we’ll make even more reliability improvements. You can’t improve the performance, it is what it is. And we’ll be better off.
“But we’ve got to remember this powertrain has to last until 2026. So for sure, it was the right strategy.
“I think we are on a good trajectory. And let’s see what next year brings. But the short term is reliability in the next few races, finish strong and I think our performance will be there.”