Mercedes’ troubles ‘a carrot’ for chasing Alpine

Jamie Woodhouse
Fernando Alonso, Alpine, right behind Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes. Saudi Arabia March 2022.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, closely follows the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. Saudi Arabia March 2022.

Seeing the struggling Mercedes just up the road is a “carrot” for Alpine, who want to take the next step and match their race pace.

Mercedes are on a run of eight Constructors’ Championships on the bounce, while in seven of those eight seasons the Drivers’ title has also gone Mercedes’ way.

Lewis Hamilton has provided the vast majority of those, winning the title in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, while Nico Rosberg won the Drivers’ Championship in 2016.

But 2022 has not started on a positive note for Mercedes, who have been replaced by Ferrari in the battle at the front with Red Bull.

Mercedes now find themselves somewhat in their own bubble for race pace although in Saudi Arabia, Alpine proved a match for them in qualifying trim as Esteban Ocon pipped George Russell to P5 on the grid.

But since there is still a clear deficit to make up on race day, this is the carrot Alpine will chase.

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, Alpine, follow George Russell, Mercedes. Saudi Arabia March 2022.
Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, Alpine, follow the Mercedes of George Russell. Saudi Arabia March 2022.

“On race pace, watching the race in Saudi Arabia they are clearly ahead of us,” Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer told Motorsport.com.

“Maybe they had some issues in qualifying.

“We will push hard to try to compete with them. But sitting here now, it looks like they probably have a better race car.

“It’s a carrot to keep pushing. It will take us a few races, to have a variety of races, to really assess where we are in the pecking order. And then it will be a development race this year.”

If Alpine are to progress up the grid and catch Mercedes or climb even higher, they need the Renault power unit to be at the level of its rivals.

So far, Fernando Alonso believes the new, updated Renault engine is now at the level of fellow manufacturers Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, while Szafnauer praised the work that has taken place at the engine base in Viry, agreeing gains have been made in that department.

“The guys at Viry [power unit developers] from what I see have done a great job and improved the powertrain,” said Szafnauer.

“They have done wonderful work over the winter. And we have a good base to keep improving.”

 

Next up is the Australian Grand Prix at a revamped Albert Park, the race weekend taking place from April 8-10 as Formula 1 returns to the venue for the first time since 2020 when the event was cancelled just before FP1 due to the escalating pandemic.

 

Alpine 'don't need to be shy' with power unit

Esteban Ocon has praised the power of the new Alpine engine in close combat this year.