Bold Alpine prediction will put Mercedes and Ferrari on alert

Oliver Harden
Alpine driver Esteban Ocon leads Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in the early stages of the Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, May 2023.

Alpine driver Esteban Ocon leads Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in the early stages of the Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, May 2023.

Alpine are aiming to remain ahead of Mercedes and Ferrari on pace at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix after Esteban Ocon’s surprise podium finish in Monaco.

The Enstone-based team came under fire after a wasteful start to the season, with chief executive Laurent Rossi blasting Alpine’s “amateurishness” following a woeful weekend in Azerbaijan.

Having finished a fine fourth in the last season’s Constructors’ standings, Alpine have again committed to an aggressive development plan with the team introducing a revised front suspension and sidepod inlet in Monte Carlo.

Ocon emerged as a shock contender for pole position before being promoted to third on the grid when Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc was penalised for impeding Lando Norris in the tunnel.

The Frenchman survived contact with Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz in the early stages of the rain-affected race to secure Alpine’s first podium since November 2021.

Despite acknowledging that the dominant Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, as well as the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso, are out of Alpine’s reach in normal circumstances, sporting director Alan Permane feels the team can continue to trouble Ferrari and eight-time Constructors’ Champions Mercedes going forward.

According to German publication, he said: “It’s not a car that’s only good in Monaco.

“We’ve only installed the upgrades that were planned for Imola and a few additional innovations. The car is just going well. I expect that we’ll do it again in the next race, we’ll be ahead of Mercedes and be able to keep up with Ferrari. recommends

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“I think Max is too far away and so is Sergio, if he’s having a good day. It will be difficult with Fernando but I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t take on Mercedes and Ferrari.

“We did that here and in Miami. In Miami they were even faster than us but we kept up.”

Having been level on 14 points with 2022 rivals McLaren before Monaco, Alpine opened an 18-point lead in the fight for fifth in Monaco with Ocon’s podium finish complemented by a P7 result for team-mate Pierre Gasly.

Despite an occasionally chaotic start to 2023 – with Ocon suffering three in-race penalties in Bahrain and both drivers crashing out in Australia before a spectacular fire for Gasly in Baku practice – Permane is adamant that the raw potential of the A523 package has been clear since the beginning of the season.

“In Baku, the slow corners were still a nightmare for us,” he said. “We got off on the wrong foot there, but I don’t want to rehash that. We knew the car was solid.

“It was good in Melbourne, it showed its potential in Jeddah too. It was good in Miami so we knew we were within striking distance. We didn’t expect a podium, but after qualifying, the top three was our goal.

“We had a fantastic qualifying [in Monaco] and that was the basis. Ferrari helped us a bit but we still deserved the result. We believe that we can achieve good results again. In addition, we will understand the car even better.

“That’s how we find out where the car really is. We learn something new every week. It wasn’t an easy car in Bahrain, but we didn’t have an easy [pre-season] test and an easy race.

“We admitted that we made mistakes in Baku. But we have a strong team and showed in Miami that we can hit back.”