Aston Martin offer incentive to Alpine
By Ian Parkes
Wednesday 15th March, 2023 - 11:06pm
Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer believes Aston Martin has laid down a marker that should serve as an incentive for his own organisation.
Aston Martin’s sudden surge from the seventh-best team in last year’s constructors’ standings to producing a podium-claiming car has been one of the major talking points upon F1’s resumption this season.
Fernando Alonso, following his switch to Alpine over the winter, finished third in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this month behind a Red Bull one-two spearheaded by reigning champion Max Verstappen.
Around the Bahrain International Circuit, the AMR23 was more than a match for both Mercedes and Ferrari, whilst Alpine suffered a traumatic start to its campaign.
Newcomer Pierre Gasly at least recovered from last on the grid to finish ninth but Esteban Ocon’s race was blighted by penalties and a late retirement.
The overall result has left Alpine questioning where it stands in the pecking order.
Assessing the transformation of Aston, a team Szafnauer used to work for in its former guises as Force India and Racing Point, he said: “They’ve made the jump.
“To be fair to them, it’s always been a good and efficient team.
“I think Force India in, say 2014, we were exactly the same, in about the same relative position. Checo (Sergio Perez) qualified fifth (in Bahrain) in 2014, and (the car) had really good race pace (finishing third).
“I congratulate them for making the big step up from last year to this year. What we’ve got to look at is we’ve got to beat them, too.”
Alpine set sights on key target
In last year’s Bahrain GP, Ocon and Alonso finished seventh and ninth respectively. As the leading qualifier, the latter was 1.6s adrift of polesitter Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari.
On this occasion, Ocon was 1.3s behind Verstappen in qualifying, representing only marginal progress.
“We should look at how close we were relative to pole from last year; how close we were on race pace and where could we have finished had we not had operational issues relative to those,” said Szafnauer. “Was it better than last year or not?
“Because what we need to do is every year catch up, and yeah, Aston has made huge improvements, and we’ve got to catch them too.”
Insisting fourth in the constructors’ is again the target, albeit ‘getting closer to the top three’, Szafnauer has highlighted Aston’s achievement as a sign of what Alpine can also do.
“I know what they’re doing, which is good, and they’re making good progress,” said Szafnauer.
“The nice thing is that it shows that kind of progress can be made and that we can do it, too.”
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