Alpine boss outlines upgrade plan as 2024 switchover looms

Thomas Maher
Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Alpine's Otmar Szafnauer at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Alpine will have at least one more significant upgrade this season, but Otmar Szafnauer says thoughts will then turn toward when to switch to 2024.

After the disappointment of a double retirement at last weekend’s British Grand Prix, Alpine are aiming to bounce back strongly in a bid to rescue their 2023 season – the Enstone squad have only scored 47 points from the first 10 races of the year, and have slipped to sixth in the Constructors’ Championship.

Alpine appeared to be on the rise a few races ago but, with other teams introducing comprehensive upgrades, Szafnauer’s squad have slipped away from the lead battle once again.

Alpine’s A523 set for upgrades at next two races

Speaking to media, including, over the British Grand Prix weekend, Szafnauer confirmed new parts will be brought to the Hungarian and Belgian Grands Prix – the round at Spa-Francorchamps being the more comprehensive of the upgrades.

“There’s an upgrade in Hungary, but not that big,” Szafnauer said.

“Then there’s one at Spa, where there’s a floor [coming]. So putting all that together, and it’s all additive, I think we should go well.”

With the battle for supremacy behind Red Bull swinging around between Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes, and now McLaren, Szafnauer was asked whether he’d ever seen such variation in performance.

“No, and it’s not all down to upgrades,” he said. “Its upgrades and track-specific stuff as well.” recommends

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Otmar Szafnauer explains how teams decide on changeover point for next season

Given their precarious position in the Constructors’ Championship, aiming to make progress to rescue their season while ensuring that there’s no compromise on the 2024 car development, Szafnauer explained his team’s thought process over the next few weeks.

Does working on an upgrade for 2023 make sense?

“I think what happens is, these cars themselves, the latitude for upgrades is smaller – we are closer together. And then, when you do bring something that’s one or two-tenths, it makes a big difference in where you are in the order,” he said, detailing how the amount of hours left to the team under the Aerodynamic Testing Regulations plays a bigger part in deciding their path than the budget cap.

“From a cost cap perspective, we have the headroom,” he continued.

“From an ATR perspective, that’s where we have to decide how much compromise there is on the ’24 car versus the ’23 car. And that will have to be a strategic decision as to what we continue to do. But as we sit here, today, most of our efforts are still on the ’23 car, not on the ’24.”

Otmar Szafnaruer: There’s an obvious point where you should stop developing

It’s in production lead times that Szafnauer explained the real limitation applies. Given how it can take weeks to turn an idea or concept into physical parts that can be fitted to the car, there comes a point at which it makes no sense to continue working on the current car – and that point is rapidly approaching.

“You run out of time. That’s the problem,” he said.

“You run out of time – there is a finite time between finding a eureka moment in the tunnel and getting it to the car. Say your last race is is November, so go eight weeks back from that. Then you have to say, ‘Oh, here’s my eureka moment, I may get it for one race’. Is it worth it? That one race, it’s not gonna do anything for you.

“So then that eureka moment is two races and say that time period is eight weeks. Before you know it, it’s not hard to fathom why you stop developing because, whatever development you find, it’s going to come to the car at Christmas when you’ve stopped racing. There becomes a pretty evident time when you should stop developing.

“The quicker you can make those parts, the further out you can push that. So if you’re a week or two better than your competitors at making floors, say it takes you eight weeks instead of 10 weeks, then you can push that out by a couple of weeks. So you might do another couple of iterations.”

The Alpine team boss confirmed that, while his team remain focused on unlocking more performance from the current car, the end of the summer break in August will be the point at which a decision is made on where the switchover begins.

“We usually start looking at it around the break,” he said.

“Right now, we’re still on the 2023 car. Coming off the break, then you have a look to see [when to start compromising].

“So the break goes to end of August. Say things take eight weeks because it’s just easy? You have two months. You have September, October. Three races in November, so it might be worth doing a big package for the last three races. But say it’s mid-September and add a couple of months to it. Then it’s not worth it.”

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