F1’s new dark horse? Alpine reportedly anticipating huge ‘six-tenth’ gain

Jamie Woodhouse
Overhead shot of Pierre Gasly in the Alpine. Saudi Arabia, March 2023.

An overhead shot of Pierre Gasly driving the Alpine A523. Saudi Arabia, March 2023.

It has been reported that Alpine has a development plan in place worth six tenths according to the data in the wind tunnel, but could the double DNF in Australia pose a threat?

Alpine were one of the F1 2022 midfield outfits who, alongside Aston Martin and McLaren, were making no secret of their ambitions to progress to competing at the front of the F1 grid in the coming years.

Aston Martin has already taken a giant step towards that goal, sitting P2 in the Constructors standings after three rounds of F1 2023, while for Alpine progress has been made – just not yet to such an extreme extent as Aston Martin’s.

But a real strength for Alpine last season was their rate of development throughout the campaign, which saw them establish themselves as the leading midfield outfit behind Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

And as per Auto Motor und Sport, confidence is high at the Enstone-based squad once again on this front, with data in the wind-tunnel suggesting a two-part gain through upgrades which will add up to six-tenths per lap.

With the first major works on the A523 set to be unveiled in Baku and Imola, the report states that Alpine expect their challenger to be three-tenths faster come Imola’s Emilia Romagna GP, if the wind tunnel data correlates correctly to the track.

That already would be a very significant gain for the team, as Pierre Gasly would turn heads during the Australian GP when Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz were struggling to ditch the pursuing Alpine driver.

So, in theory, gaining six-tenths overall would comfortably put Alpine right in that fight with Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ferrari behind Red Bull, though Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer admitted that it all depends on how those teams develop as well, even if he is confident that Alpine can hold their own in that regard.

“It’s a game of dependencies, unfortunately,” he said. “But we think we can at least keep up with the development pace of Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 2023 conclusions: Red Bull the new Mercedes, Mercedes the new Red Bull

Lewis Hamilton reveals McLaren desire after major staff reshuffle

F1 2023 vs 2022: How the standings stack up after latest Australian Grand Prix

But will the Albert Park drama leave a lasting legacy?

There is a potential threat to Alpine’s grand plan, that being the heavy damage sustained to both cars when team-mates Gasly and Esteban Ocon collided late in the Australian GP, leaving Alpine with a hefty repair bill.

And in a cost-cap era, such shunts can easily mean money needs to be detracted from the upgrades penny pot, a possibility which Alpine are still looking into.

“It’s not yet a problem for the cost cap, even though the accident cost us dearly,” said Szafnauer of that Albert Park shunt which eliminated both Alpines. “But the accident has shifted the priorities.

“For now, we need spare parts for Baku. You don’t just rebuild things like a front wing in a fortnight. We still have to check whether that has an influence on whether we can bring our development package to its full extent.”

Alpine head into the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit P6 in the Constructors’ Championship, having fallen behind 2022 rivals McLaren as a result of that double DNF.