Otmar Szafnauer would rather take P4 and the money over extra wind tunnel time

Michelle Foster
Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer. Austria July 2022.

Otmar Szafnauer surveys the grid in front of the Alpine of Esteban Ocon. Austria July 2022.

Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer is adamant he would “rather have the money” that comes with finishing fourth in the Constructors’ than the extra R&D time P5 receives.

Alpine and McLaren go into the penultimate race weekend of the season separated by only seven points in the Enstone team’s favour.

It has been a thrilling battle between the two throughout the season, the teams having been tied on 81 points at the midway point.

While Alpine have bagged more double points hauls than McLaren, 10 to six, they have recorded more retirements with seven to McLaren’s three. In McLaren’s favour is also the only podium result between the two, Lando Norris third at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

It is anyone’s guess who will come out on top, with some pundits suggesting finishing fifth may be worth more than P4 given the extra wind tunnel time.

Szafnauer insists he wants the money more than the development time.

“Fourth versus fifth is definitely worth it,” he told Sky F1.

“As far as the quantum goes, we won’t know that until you know what the entire pot is. Even if I did know, I’m not sure I’m supposed to tell you.

“It’s definitely worth it.”

However, finishing fourth instead of fifth means fewer wind tunnel runs than the team behind.

Formula 1 introduced an R&D sliding scale in 2021 which is based on where teams finish in the Constructors’ Championship, with P10 granted more time than P9 and so on upwards.

The sliding scale was part of Formula 1’s package aimed at levelling the playing field, and included the budget cap.

Szafnauer says he will take less wind tunnel time over more money, saying it is worth it.

“Yeah, even at the loss of five per cent,” he said. “I guess five per cent is a bit of consolation if you finish fifth versus fourth, but we’d rather have the money.”

Alpine’s chances of beating McLaren to fourth have been dealt a few blows of late with their reliability issues.

The team were 24 points ahead after the Dutch Grand Prix but four DNFs in the five races since have kept McLaren in the fight.

The team’s reliability had Fernando Alonso fuming after the Mexican Grand Prix where he lost out on yet another top-10 result as his A522 suffered an engine issue.

Szafnauer has reassured his driver he will not experience that again this weekend in Brazil, although something different may yet pop up.

“The good news is we’ve never repeated a reliability issue,” said the team boss.

“And it’s one of those things, you don’t know what you don’t know.

“But we are confident going into this weekend and next we definitely won’t see what we’ve seen in the past.”

Hopefully, he added, “we won’t see any at all”.

Read more: Otmar Szafnauer: Wrong to ‘punish’ Alpine if Pierre Gasly picks up a race ban