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Formula 1

Alpine is sure it’s solved Alonso’s biggest complaint

by Scott Mitchell-Malm, Matt Beer
4 min read

You may remember Fernando Alonso mentioned once or twice how many points he’d lost to poor Alpine reliability during the 2022 Formula 1 season.

There was some classic Alonso mischievous hyperbole among it, but with five retirements due to mechanical failures, at least one race performance compromised by technical problems (Canada, where he’d qualified on the front row in the wet) and another skewed by a mechanical problem causing a crash in qualifying (Australia), he did have a point.

Alonso won’t be in the car to benefit from it this year, but there is plenty of confidence at Alpine that his replacement Pierre Gasly and team-mate Esteban Ocon aren’t going to have the same problems.

Technical director Matt Harman was quick to argue that the 2022 trouble “wasn’t just specific to Alonso”, though he admitted the double champion bore “the brunt of them, unfortunately”.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Mexican Grand Prix Race Day Mexico City, Mexico

What matters now is that they’re fixed.

“We had issues generally with some areas of the car,” said Harman.

“We understood the root cause quite quickly, contained it best we could in the A522, but we’ve actually got to the root cause and counter-measured them for the A523.

“We’ve run a lot of mileage in our full-car dyno and that allows us to get that real big confidence in context with the car.”

Bruno Famin, executive director of Alpine’s engine division, said the team’s engine issues mostly came down to just one thing.

“To be transparent, we had one big issue last year during the full season, which was linked to the water pump,” he said.

“Very quickly during the season we saw that to solve that problem we needed to change the location of the pump, to change the pump itself and that couldn’t be done without changing other parts and integration on the car.

“It was just impossible to do during the season. And during the season last year we made some modifications and improvements to reduce the risk but only reducing the risk.

A523 Concrete Studio Blue 02 (1)

“Then the big step is now with the A523, with a new water pump in a new place.

“And all the tests we have done on the dyno are OK. We are reasonably confident. As confident as it is possible to be after the dyno.

“The dyno is the dyno. The track is the track. Let’s see on the track. But we are happy with the work we have done on the dyno.”

That water pump problem cost Alpine mileage and race finishes, but not performance. Unlike Ferrari, it didn’t turn its engine down to tackle a reliability worry.

“We never reduced the power of the engine in ‘22,” said Famin. “We just worked on the auxiliaries because we could reduce the risk as much as we could.”

The water pump’s inadequacies were a consequence of Alpine not managing to do the full array of proving work that it would’ve liked to on all areas of its engine as it hurried to get a significantly different power unit concept completed for 2022.

“It was part of the challenge we had for 2022 because ‘22 was the first year of the frozen period and our strategy was to push until the very last moment for the performance and we are happy with that because we really closed the gap compared to ‘21,” Famin explained.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Canadian Grand Prix Race Day Montreal, Canada

“There is little difference between the four PUs on the grid. We are happy with the level of the performance.

“The counterpoint was that we hadn’t been able to make all the validation before the start of the 2022 season but now we are reasonably confident in the fact that we have done all our homework and that this has been solved and for the 2023 season we will see that on the track.”

Asked by The Race what he regarded as the Alpine engine’s main strength, Famin said “it’s difficult to compare with the others” but that he’d happily identify what the team’s engine priority had been.

“What we really want to work on, the thing we are really working together with Enstone on, is integration of the power unit in the car,” he said.

“We don’t want the best engine, we don’t want the best chassis – we want the best car. It’s the car, and the driver, who score points. Not the engine or the chassis. And we are really working hard on that.

“We have some evolutions on the car, on the power unit, which will not bring anything in terms of performance or power of the engine but will bring performance to the car.”

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