Stumbling block identified that left ‘very courageous’ Renault with weakened PU

Sam Cooper
Esteban Ocon driving for Alpine

Having finished fourth in 2022, Alpine slipped to 6th in 2023.

Alpine’s Matt Harman believes their “courageous” approach to engine design was what resulted in them having a weakened PU.

Suspicions Renault’s power unit may be down in comparison to Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes were confirmed shortly before the summer break when an F1 Commission meeting suggested possible fixes.

But although that talk has gone quiet since, Alpine’s technical director Harman has reflected on how the Renault engine came to be.

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Heading into 2023, Renault were the only power unit supplier to be powering one team and after the disastrous relationship with Red Bull in the late 2010s, the company were looking to salvage their PU’s reputation.

In order to do that, Harman said they took a “courageous” approach but ultimately a stumbling block saw them create the worst PU on the grid.

“I wouldn’t say frustrating,” he said when asked if engine problems were frustrating for his chassis team.

“I think we tried. I think it’s important that we try these things. In the end, we have the technology and the capability to put the power unit where we’d like it to be, we just ran out of time.

“We were very courageous with that engine. Okay, it’s a little bit behind where we’d like it to be. But it used to be a long way behind, and we made a big step, but we just didn’t quite get there enough.

“And we just couldn’t take any more risks than we did, it would have been nice to have it unlocked for a little while just to do that again.

“But in the end, I think it’s also important to note that we’ve got another power unit to do at the moment. That’s a big focus for the team. And that’s where we see our future.

“So I think we took a decision in the end, actually, to just focus on the future. And we’ll deal with this power unit for the next two years by trying to remove some of its parasitic losses and do everything that we can do inside the regulations.” recommends

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But to blame Alpine’s 2023 on power unit problems alone would not be fair with the chassis not being one of the best on the grid. That is a point Harman was also keen to stress.

“It’s not just about the power unit deficit,” he said. “If we look at Monza, and we look at how we performed there, it was not a good weekend for us.

“We didn’t expect to be there. We knew the performance delta for the power unit before we went in, but we didn’t expect to be in that position.

“And that tells you something that we just didn’t do enough on the chassis side to complement the power unit and make the best of it. And that’s something we actually learned for Las Vegas.

“We do have to make some compromises, of course, you have to re-optimise your car into a different zone. I think there’s a lot you can do. And I don’t think we did enough at some of the circuits where the power unit dominates.”

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