Alpine sporting director Alan Permane has said that not using DRS, and deliberately running heavier fuel loads has disguised any step forwards the team may have made.
The Estone-based squad had a low-key first test session in Barcelona and never really troubled the top of the timesheets over the three days.
The team were able to get their act together for the final day with Fernando Alonso setting a more competitive time. But their running was cut short when a fiery engine saw the Spaniard end his day only setting 12 laps.
However, Alpine has since revealed that they feel in a much better place compared to their performance in Barcelona.
Not running DRS, reported to be worth around seventh tenths per lap, and running the car heavy on fuel has masked any outright performance that the team has.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses, and I’m not saying we’re going to go out and beat Mercedes and Red Bull, but I think we are in a decent position,” said Permane, as quoted by Motorsport.com.
“The lap Fernando did [on the final] morning, although it was only one lap, it’s very comparable to what [Max] Verstappen did at the same time, albeit Verstappen is using DRS.
“If you overlay the GPS, which we can do with the systems we have from the FIA, the traces are almost identical apart from the straights where we lose a huge amount of time.
“Fernando was super happy with the car. We found some significant stuff on setup overnight and we’ve really calmed the rear of the car down.
“Had we put another C3 on at that point, there was going to be another three or four tenths, and then all of a sudden you’re looking very, very close.
“I don’t want to say everything’s fine and we are completely chilled. Of course, we’re concerned. But it’s in no way are we going to be at the bottom of the timesheets.
“My gut feel is that we are probably a little bit closer to the front than we were at the end of last year.”
Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi confirmed that Renault have chased performance over reliability for their engine. The power unit development freeze that is due to end in 2025 prohibits performance tweaks, but does allow for reliability changes.
Permane revealed that the team are being cautious in other areas and said that there were concerns over DRS causing problems at high speed.
“It was just something on the car and we were just not comfortable,” Permane explained. “I’ll be honest with you, it’s related to top speed so it’s a load thing. We’re just being cautious.
“It’s not that we can’t do it, or we’re scared or we’re worried about anything, or we think something’s going to break. We’re just being cautious.
“We just thought; let’s just not take the risk. Let’s just use this week to fill miles and then go to Bahrain with everything ready to go there.
“It’s a shame because it’s a big performance gain, it’s over seven tenths per lap for us around here. So it’s a big old chunk of laptime. But that’s just where we are.”
El Plan goes awry in Barcelona
Fernando Alonso's third day of test stopped when his car went up in smoke.