Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi believes the team’s new power unit is up there with the best in Formula 1, admitting previous Renault engines had been costing the team as much as half a second per lap on power alone.
It was an eventful opening weekend to the season for Alpine, with team principal Otmar Szafnauer acknowledging it was difficult to know exactly where they stand in the competitive order after Esteban Ocon was hit with multiple penalties in Bahrain, while Pierre Gasly worked his way up from the back of the grid to finish ninth last weekend.
One area of weakness at Alpine and Renault in years gone by had been the power unit, with Red Bull acrimoniously splitting from Renault for that very reason before switching to Honda power.
Alpine have no customer team on the grid to act as a reference for their new engine, but chief executive Rossi is confident their latest effort is able to lap within a tenth of their rivals – with Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes also powering the 10 teams on the grid.
With the supposed improvements the team have made on the power unit front, having integrated the engine better into the car, Rossi believes the next course of action is to ensure the rest of the car is up to scratch to compete further forwards.
“It’s definitely better than where it was, to be honest with you,” Rossi told Formula 1’s Beyond the Grid podcast.
“I like to say that you don’t win a championship only because of a PU, but you certainly lose it. And the deficit of performance that the PU was generating in prior years was making it impossible for us to aim at anything better than fifth.
“We were basically losing a good three to five tenths a lap because of the PU, only because the integration of the PU was not perfect and not because the PU was not good in and of itself, but it was just not optimised, integration wise.
David Coulthard details why Fred Vasseur differs to his Ferrari predecessors
On Track GP: Should Lewis Hamilton stay with or leave Mercedes?
Is Fernando Alonso a better F1 driver than Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton?
“I mean, Viry [Renault’s power unit headquarters] are very much capable of extracting as much horsepower as they want from the PU, but it was not like a seamless job in terms of integrating the two.
“The new one is definitely much closer to the to the competition, I think we are like in the ballpark of a tenth with the best.
“So that’s just fine enough, because let’s remember, we have a second to catch up with Red Bull, something like that.
“It’s much better to think that ‘okay, if we get to a tenth, then we’ll be in a good place’ – the rest is down to the car.”