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THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY-ALPINE


Alpine as a team heading into 2023 were definitely one that everyone kept their eyes on. After failing to win the claim to Oscar Piastri’s race seat, The team from Chipping Norton decided to field an all French lineup of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon. High expectations were there for the side, but the season was filled with twists and turns.


A ROCKY START

The first race at Bahrain saw Gasly displaying strategic prowess in the race to finish P9 from P20 while Ocon ran into trouble early, picking multiple penalties for causing on-track collisions and eventually retiring in the race. Jeddah saw both cars score points showing positive signs.


The mood changed however as in Australia in a chaotic race that ended with a last lap sprint, both cars collided into each other resulting in a double DNF. Baku was a disappointment as both cars couldn’t get points in either the sprint or the race.


THE STRUGGLE FOR STABILITY

Miami was decent as both cars scored points. Monaco was a standout weekend as Ocon managed to qualify P4 in a terrific qualifying session, and on a wet race day drove to a well earned P3 marking the first podium for the season whilst Gasly finished 7th.


Spain and Canada were both mixed weekends as Ocon got 2 P8 finishes while Gasly struggled trying to find the right balance in the car and only getting 1 point from the 2 races.


Austria once again was marred by mixed results. Gasly managed to get P10 but Ocon had his worst weekend for the team, setting the undesirable record of having the most penalties in a single race with 5.

The British GP was a nightmare as faulty hydraulics forced Ocon to stop in Lap 12 whilst Gasly suffered a collision at the hands of Lance Stroll that meant he was out of the running.


Hungary was another unqualified disaster as both cars were the unlucky victims of a domino crash sequence the collision between Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu and Danny Ricciardo’s Alphatauri, led to the latter back ending Ocon, who then caught Gasly’s car unawares ultimately causing terminal damage to both Alpines, resulting in a double DNF. Alpine were distraught and were struggling to steady the ship. Changes had to be made.


A SUDDEN SHAKE-UP

Alpine made a big statement, announcing the departure of CEO Laurent Rossi, Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer and longtime Team Enstone Sporting Director Alan Permane, at the end of the Belgium Grand Prix. Pat Fry, their chief technical officer, would also depart at the end of the season to join Williams.


Alpines Director of Engineering Philippe Krief and VP Bruno Famin took the roles of CEO and interim Team Principal respectively as the team tried to get back on track. The weekend at Belgium was relatively better as Gasly neatly handled the changing conditions at Spa-Francorchamps to get himself a sprint race podium whilst in the main race Ocon secured P8.


DROPOFF FROM THE TOP 5

With the new management now in place after Belgium things looked positive. Pierre took his first main race podium for the team driving a fantastic race in full-wet conditions at the tight and technically challenging Zandevoort course in Netherlands and Ocon snagged a P10.


The reliability issues however still persisted and hit Alpine hard. The power unit from Renault was 30hp slower than its rivals which meant the A523 dropped half a second per lap on average. This nullified the gains from their aggressive weight reduction program for that season.


The downward slide kept going as in Italy and Singapore, Ocon retired with steering and gearbox issues. He also took the brunt of a collision with Piastri at COTA in the US GP making it a third DNF in 9 races. Gasly did relatively better but a weak package could not let him fight consistently with McLaren or Aston Martin.


At the Japanese Grand Prix, Gasly was ordered by the team to let Ocon through at the end of the race after having swapped earlier to try and make ground. In spite Gasly visibly and vocally unhappy about the call Alpine did secure a double points finish. One of only the 2 times they were able to do so in the last 9 races of the calendar.


At the end of the year Alpine finished P6 in the standings at 120 points, a massive 160 points behind Aston Martin in P5. Gasly and Ocon finished P11 and P12 in the standings, a fair representation of where the team was throughout the year.

 

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

In order to succeed it's clear that the Alpine team needs stability. The weight reduction program showcased benefits in specific circuits, but a more efficient power unit is essential for competitiveness. Consistency and security are crucial for a smoother campaign. Despite a shaky base, Alpine remains a strong contender on paper with the capacity to bounce back. Money won’t be an issue as Alpine recently sold 24% of their shares to Otro Capital, with sports stars such as Rory McIlroy and Trent Alexander Arnold being a part of the investment group.


Heading into this year, Alpine now shift their hopes and focus onto the A524, which will be launched on the 7th of February. The French team having talented homegrown drivers and the Enstone factory’s championship legacy still is a strong contender on paper. They will look to find their mojo and get back to winning ways as soon as possible.

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