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Formula 1

‘Race-ready’ A523 makes Alpine’s 2022 car look ‘like a toy’

by Scott Mitchell-Malm, Jack Cozens
4 min read

Alpine is effectively “race-ready” with an A523 Formula 1 car that makes its predecessor look “like a toy”, according to Esteban Ocon.

The A523 appears to be one of the gentler evolutions of car design among teams, compared to the A522 with which Alpine finished fourth in last year’s constructors’ championship.

But technical director Matt Harman has highlighted a number of changes that amounted to an overhaul of key areas – particularly at the rear of the car – and said the “aggressive” approach Alpine had taken over the winter would also be seen through its in-season development.

That is in keeping with a successful upgrade programme Alpine implemented in 2022.

Alpine F1 2022 2023 comparison

Ocon, who described himself as “more of a mechanical guy” when it comes to his appreciation of the car, said this year’s design is already much more advanced than the one it has succeeded.

“When I come to the car, I look at it closely: I look at the details, how every part goes next to each other, how good everything looks, the details,” said Ocon, when asked by The Race whether Alpine had enjoyed a good winter based on what the team had told him.

“Even from my position: how the carbon seat is finished, the pedal box.

“Last year it looked like a toy, the car, in comparison to this year. This year it’s a proper race machine, and it’s a huge step.

“I think we are in much, much better shape than we were last year. Let’s see if it’s confirmed on-track.”

Esteban Ocon Alpine F1

Ocon said in general the second generation of cars built to F1’s latest ground effect ruleset were visually much more impressive.

Asked if he was surprised Mercedes had stuck broadly with its outlier concept from 2022, Ocon said: “It looks a lot more detailed than last year when most cars were launched, obviously it was the first new-reg cars.

“But it looks quite impressive – the Aston Martin, the Merc, all these kind of cars, they look very fast. We will see, once we start running, where everyone sits.”

Team principal Otmar Szafnauer also referenced Alpine’s trajectory during the launch, saying it was imperative Alpine outdeveloped every other team in 2023 if it was to achieve its target of retaining fourth place while reducing its deficit to F1’s big three teams – Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes.

Ocon said it was doubly significant that Alpine was in good shape when the heavily revised car hit the track for the first time in a shakedown session at Silverstone last Monday.

“Last year has been great,” he said. “Obviously we’ve performed consistently and we got in points very often.

“I think what we need to get better for 2023 is to start with a car that’s performing a little higher than it did last year. Because we struggled early on, we were not in the best shape in the winter test and the first couple of races.

“And from what I’ve seen during this shakedown is that we are race-ready, basically.

“That’s a massive step up from last year. And obviously as Otmar said, outdeveloping the competitors is going to be the aim to close that gap from fourth to third.

“So it can sound the same, finishing fourth, but first of all we can’t underestimate anyone, all the other teams, and the second thing is yes, it was a huge gap from third to fourth, so if we finish fourth but close to third it’s going to be a super-successful season.”

Alpine F1 rear comparison

Expanding on his feeling from shakedown, he added: “You can already start to feel, if the car has an issue, if the car has a fundamental issue in the balance or anything, and that was not the case.

“The car was spot on from when we put it on, and that’s very reassuring that first of all, the sim works the same way as the car does on-track, and the model does work, it correlates perfectly.

“[It’s been] very good until now.”

“We’re in much better shape,” agreed Harmon when told of Ocon’s comments.

“I pushed the team to a limit last season, we did it for a good reason but we didn’t need to do it for this year.

“So yeah, we’re in much better shape, we went out the garage at 9am on our filming day, we faultlessly did our 100km, shared it between the two drivers and we actually managed to focus on them and their feedback, rather than trying to maintain the car around the circuit.”

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