[Alpine plans ‘significant’ F1 upgrade before summer break
Szafnauer also wants the team to continue its push to bring new parts to the track over the remaining races as it tries to recover ground in the constructors’ championship.
After a promising run that include a third place in Monaco, Alpine has slipped down the pecking order in the last two races, despite a new front wing introduced at the British GP showing some promise.
The blue cars ran towards the bottom of the top 10 at Silverstone, but Esteban Ocon stopped with a hydraulic pump failure and Pierre Gasly retired with suspension damage after a collision.
The team now lies sixth in the championship, having fallen behind McLaren.
The hope is that the new front wing will be optimised as more parts are introduced over the next two events, and specifically the floor that will be seen in Belgium.
“Our upgrades have worked this year and there’s another significant one coming before the break,” said Szafnauer. “I hope that too will help, because the swing of relative competitiveness does that kind of stuff. So yeah, I’m looking forward to our next one.
“There’s an upgrade in Hungary but not that big. Then there’s a floor in Spa. So putting all that together, and it’s all additive, I think we should go well.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1 Team, in the Team Principals Press Conference
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Szafnauer stressed that the team still has scope within the cost cap to get new parts to the track in the coming months.
“From a cost cap perspective, we have the headroom,” he said. “From an ATR [aerodynamic testing restrictions] perspective, that’s where we have to decide how much compromise there is on the ’24 car versus the ’23 car.
“And that will have to be a strategic decision as to what we continue to do. But as we sit here, today, most of our efforts are still on the ’23 car, not on the ’24 car.”
Szafnauer stressed that he preferred to keep upgrades coming to the current car, given that there are no rules changes for 2024, and thus work for next season could be applied early if it made sense to fast track the parts to the track.
“Me personally, I’m always for upgrading the car as much as we possibly can,” he said. “It will come down to what do we get out of that last upgrade? How much performance can we put on it?
“And you can’t answer until you’ve gone through both the CFD and the aero process over and over and over to do the experiments to see what you find. And then determine, when you know, when those upgrades are coming.
“So it’s really hard to predict, unless you’ve gone through those loops. But I’m all for continuing to upgrade.”
Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, arrives on the grid
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images
He added that the limiting factor is not the budget to make the parts, but the ability to introduce them in time to have an impact over the last few races of the season.
“You run out of at time,” he said. “There is a finite time between finding a eureka moment in the tunnel, and getting it to the car. And so if you say that your last race is end of November, you go eight weeks back from that, and then you have to say, Oh, here’s my eureka moment. I may get it for one race. Is it worth it? That one race, it’s not going to do anything for you.
“Before you know, it’s not hard to fathom why you stopped developing, because whatever development you find, it’s going to come to the car at Christmas, when you stop racing.
“And then when you go back, there becomes a pretty evident time when you should start developing.
“The quicker you can make those parts, the further out you can push that. So if you’re a week or two better than your competitors at making floors, say it takes you eight weeks instead of 10 weeks, or six weeks and eight weeks, then you can push that out by a couple of weeks. So you might do another a couple iterations.”
Asked when that compromise begins he said: “Well, we usually start looking at it around the break. Right now, we’re still on the ’23 car. Coming off the break then you have a look to see.
“So it still might be worth doing a big package for last three races. But say it’s mid-September and add a couple of months to it – then it’s not worth it.”