Outgoing Alpine driver Fernando Alonso has claimed the team are lacking “a little bit everywhere” compared to Formula 1 Constructors’ Champions Red Bull.
Under the new regulations for 2022, Alpine enjoyed their strongest season since Renault regained control of the Enstone-based team in 2015 as Alonso and team-mate Esteban Ocon combined to secure fourth place in the Constructors’ standings.
However, the team ended the year 586 points adrift of Champions Red Bull – winners of all but five races – and 342 behind third-placed Mercedes, with McLaren’s Lando Norris the only driver outside of the top three teams to stand on the podium in 2022.
Alonso, who will replace the retired Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin next season, believes a range of different factors have resulted in the significant performance gap between the best and the rest.
Asked to identify the areas in which Alpine are losing a combined total of one second per lap to Red Bull, Alonso told German publication Auto Motor und Sport: “A little bit everywhere.
“The second is made up of the sum of many small advantages. More downforce, less drag, more power, better tyre management, pit stops, the execution of race procedures.
“They are faster on the straights and in the corners, which is very difficult to achieve in this combination.”
A competitive end to the season for Mercedes and Ferrari has raised expectations that Red Bull, facing restrictions on aerodynamic research after being found to have breached F1’s cost cap back in 2021, will face a much sterner test in 2023.
But Alonso, who drove an Aston Martin F1 car for the first time at the post-season test session in Abu Dhabi last month, feels it may take some time for F1’s so-called lesser teams to close the gap to the frontrunners.
“You can’t make up for that in a year,” he added. “But I’m hopeful that one or two teams will be ready in two or three years.”
Lack of competition is a major drawback of F1’s 2022 rules reset
It is often said that the F1 field is at its tightest when the regulations are left to mature and that was never more evident than in the final years of the previous rules cycle in 2020/21.
In the last two seasons of the extreme downforce cars, originally introduced in 2017, six of Formula 1’s 10 teams managed to win a race and all but two reached the podium.
Although a large element of luck was involved in Ocon’s victory in Hungary and George Russell’s podium for Williams at Spa in 2021, for instance, such variety is integral to F1’s enduring appeal.
To go from those madcap campaigns to a season in 2022 in which one team won 17 of a possible 22 races – and only one driver not behind the wheel of a Red Bull, Ferrari or Mercedes stood on the podium – was a major drawback of F1’s rules reset.
Moments like Norris’s podium at Imola, Alonso’s front-row start in Canada and, of course, Kevin Magnussen’s pole position for Haas in Brazil keep F1’s wheels spinning.
But we just have to hope that F1’s pressing of the reset button doesn’t mean we will left waiting for several years before unpredictability can really start to be factored in on the regular basis.