F1 2023 preview: Alpine F1 Team
By Mat Coch
Saturday 28th January, 2023 - 5:00pm
As preparations ramp up for the 2023 season, Speedcafe.com Formula 1 Editor Mat Coch looked at every team and assessed their chances for the coming year.
2022 championship position: 4th, 173 points
Speedcafe.com’s 2023 championship prediction: 4th
There is little doubt that the Alpine F1 team was the leading midfield runner throughout the 2022 season but can it carry that into 2023?
McLaren mounted some competition to that mantle though that was a result of poor reliability from the Enstone team rather than strong performance from Woking.
Fernando Alonso complained during the year of missed opportunities, which he reasoned cost him in the region of 60 points.
There is some logic to that, but the simple fact is that even with that boost, all it would have done is lock Alpine into fourth in the constructors’ championship earlier.
Reliability is something that can be improved, more important was the fact the car was fast.
In F1, that is a fundamental necessity, pretty much everything else can be worked on.
And that’s what Alpine has been doing. It pushed the boat out in terms of power unit performance ahead of the freeze which came in last year.
That was a choice, one made with a longer-term game in mind. Push the engine to its limit with performance and then fix the things that break – which IS allowed under the rules.
So Alpine had a fast car and a power unit that needed a little fettling but which seemed to at least offer a good baseline.
That’s the technical side of things covered then, and with that side of things not changing much this year, it’s fair to suggest it’ll therefore remain somewhere in that same wheelhouse in 2023.
Alpine, as a car, will be the fourth fastest on the F1 grid in 2023. The question is, what about the rest of the team?
Enstone hasn’t been the most stable of places in recent times.
It has had a raft of senior personnel changes since Cyril Abiteboul left the organisation and was central to the Oscar Piastri contract saga last year.
Other, less public figures have also left the organisation, suggesting there is a degree of turmoil within the ranks.
Was that the reason Alonso switched camps?
The truth is, we don’t really know. What we do know he was in discussions with Alpine before Aston Martin came along and scooped him from under them.
What followed was a problem of its own creation with Piastri, who did the right thing by looking after his own interests first.
There are question marks then over the management and perhaps even culture within the team.
Similarly, there are question marks over the relationship between its two drivers.
Esteban Ocon remains, with some questioning why he was signed to such a long-term deal, now joined by Pierre Gasly.
The pair do not exchange Christmas cards, so it will be interesting to see whether that can be repaired or whether their rivalry will damage the team.
Both are rapid but neither is the sort to give an inch. Ocon has been uncompromising with team-mates in the past – his time with Sergio Perez resulted in a clash or two.
It is an interesting pairing, solid if unspectacular with two drivers whose true potential is unclear.
They’re both race winners, Ocon at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix and Gasly at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix – both events with their quirks but, when afforded the opportunity, they both converted.
But are they the drivers to push Alpine to the front of the grid and rival the top three teams? Head to head, is the Ocon and Gasly combination a match for the likes of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz?
That is a key unanswered question. Perhaps they can drive one another on and take the team forward. Perhaps they’ll implode.
The good news is the car is likely to be fast and there has been stability in key positions.
There are experienced and well-credentialed people where it matters, another point in its favour.
With McLaren still building and the rest of the midfield someway behind, Alpine would have to lose serious ground to drop below fifth in 2023.
More realistically, with two experienced drivers and improvements in train for the identified weaknesses experienced last year, the Enstone squad should move into a clear fourth best.
It might have the pace on occasion to mix it higher up the field, and should on balance be closer to the front of the race, allowing it to steal a podium here and there and maybe a race win if circumstances fall its way.
Alpine heads into the 2023 F1 season as a dark horse. Close enough to cause trouble for the top three, but not quite close enough yet to be considered contenders in their own right.
You can stay across F1 throughout the 2023 season with dates, drivers, key personnel and more with Speedcafe.com’s Key Details reference, available here.
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