Even without Alfa Romeo reliability issues, McLaren/Alpine ‘step ahead’

Jamie Woodhouse
Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, alongside Esteban Ocon. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Zhou Guanyu's Alfa Romeo alongside Esteban Ocon's Alpine. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Alfa Romeo’s head of trackside engineering Xevi Pulojar feels McLaren and Alpine are fundamentally a “step ahead” of them.

At the start of the season it was Alfa Romeo who came firing out of the blocks with a C42 challenger that was lighter than most of its rivals, allowing them to set the early pace in the midfield alongside Haas.

But as the season went on Alfa Romeo found themselves dropping down the order as Alpine and McLaren recovered, while Aston Martin also found form.

Ultimately Alpine and McLaren put themselves at the head of the midfield, while Alfa Romeo held on to P6 in the Constructors’ Championship, tied with Aston Martin on 55 points at the end of the campaign, but ahead courtesy of Valtteri Bottas’ P5 at Imola.

Alfa Romeo did have their fair share of reliability issues along the way though, Bottas retiring at the Saudi Arabian, British and Dutch GPs when the C42 let him down, while Zhou Guanyu dropped out in Miami, Spain and Baku.

That being said, even with a perfect reliability record, Pulojar does not believe that Alfa Romeo had the performance to stop Alpine and McLaren.

Asked if he thought Alfa Romeo could have caught Alpine and McLaren without the issues, Pulojar told reporters, including PlanetF1.com: “No, I think they are still a step ahead.

“I think what we would have achieved, it would have been more margin to Aston Martin, but still to the level of Alpine or McLaren, we will need one more step.

“And that’s what we will be working on next year, but still now is consolidating on being P6 and looking to one step more.

“But it’s a few areas, performance now was good again in the last few races, but still the areas that we need to improve, the races, starts, lap one and many other areas that we have been still some margin, and that is where we will be much better prepared for next year.”

Looking ahead to the 2023 campaign, Pulojar expects Alfa Romeo to find the start of the new campaign tougher with a field that is more tightly packed, but with the team receiving a cash boost for securing P6, team boss Frederic Vasseur referencing figures of around $10 million, Pulojar spoke of the benefit this will bring to the Hinwil outfit.

Alfa Romeo are also planning to beef up their production department.

“It’s important for us because next year will be even more competitive than this year,” said Pulojar of the importance of this extra income.

“I think not only on that side, but we have seen we still have got many weak points that we now will have time to work on and prepare.

“We had some advantage at the beginning of the season, probably next year will be a bit more difficult from the beginning, everybody will be very close together, and now we just need to get ready for another good fight from the beginning next year.

“And all that, being P6, it will be a good help to get ready for that new challenge as a team.”

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