Otmar Szafnauer overruled by Alpine engineers in attempt to hunt down Ferrari

Sam Cooper
Pierre Gasly during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Jeddah, March 2023.

Pierre Gasly during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Jeddah, March 2023.

Otmar Szafnauer revealed he wanted to push the Ferraris during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix but was shot down by his engineers.

After an eventful opening race, the grand prix in Jeddah was a more straightforward affair for Alpine with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly cruising to P8 and P9 respectively.

At times it even seemed like they were running a race of their own as following the Safety Car, both Alpines quickly moved past Yuki Tsunoda but they were unable to hunt down the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc ahead of them.

Team boss Szafnauer has said that would have been his choice of strategy but, with tyres in mind, he was dissuaded by Alpine’s engineers.

“We were a bit in no man’s land for a while and then we turned the car down,” Szafnauer told Sky Sports F1. “We were conservative on the tyres just to make sure they lasted to the end and I was hoping we could push up a little bit more to the Ferraris, but was overruled by the engineers.”

Having made it to Q3 for the first time this season, Gasly was able to get a better grasp of the pace of his new team and predicted they finished about where was to be expected.

“We finished P8 and P9, about 10 seconds behind a Ferrari so I think that’s roughly where we have to be,” Gasly told Sky Sports F1.

“There are some positives, it’s only the second race and the team is still building up and another points finish.

“All in all, I think there are still a couple of things to improve in qualy so as I say we will work, we want to be closer to the pack ahead and hopefully we can keep chipping away a little bit and join the fight.”

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His team-mate Ocon was of similar belief that where they finished in Jeddah was the best they could have hoped for.

“I think it was definitely the maximum that we could have done because the Ferraris were just too quick for us,” the Frenchman said. “We tried to hold on but in the middle of the stint they just disappeared, they have too much pace.

“So from there on we just looked after the car while still pulling away from the car behind. So unfortunately that’s where we were, fifth-fastest car today, but we understood a lot.

“I think it’s going to be important that we push on and dig into the details and try and understand to be able to get closer to the cars in front.

“[I’m] happy to finally start my season. Good haul of points for the team and a clean weekend.”