Alpine needs “more than a few upgrades” to progress in Formula 1’s midfield after starting the season on the back foot because of “a few issues in the windtunnel”.
The rebranded Renault team has had a slow start to the 2021 season, failing to score points in the first race in Bahrain before Esteban Ocon finished 10th at Imola.
A post-race penalty for Kimi Raikkonen meant Alpine’s result last weekend was upgraded to ninth and 10th, handing Fernando Alonso the first point of his comeback, but the meagre double points finish has done little to change the team’s competitive outlook at this early stage.
Midfield teams’ points after two races
|Aston Martin||5||7 (22)*|
* 15-point deduction
Alpine had a raft of upgrades at Imola, some of which were just evaluations for future use, as executive director Marcin Budkowski revealed its difficult start to the season had been anticipated after a troubled off-season.
“Going into the test we knew we experienced some headwind during the winter,” he said.
“Some of the regulation changes but also we had a few issues in the windtunnel that slowed us in terms of development.
“We knew we hadn’t had the best possible winter. Therefore we were expecting to be on the back foot.
“Testing kind of confirmed that. We did make progress through the test but we knew we were on the back foot.
“In terms of reaction, most of the upgrades were planned already. You don’t build a front wing in two weeks. But also, some of the stuff we’re testing here is a result of the test and Bahrain race.
“We’re pushing hard to improve our performance, it’s clear from the number of upgrades [at Imola]. But we’re further behind than we’d like to be so it’s going to take more than a few upgrades.
“And I don’t expect anyone else is waiting for us to bring upgrades. Everybody is going to improve their car. So, it’s a relative race.
“It looks like the car’s going to progress but we’ve got more work to do in the next few races to bring a bit more.”
Alpine trialled a modified front wing that had revisions to the mainplane, the shape of the elements, and endplates during Friday practice, back-to-backing it with the Bahrain-specification.
The curvature of the cape under the nose has changed slightly, and Alpine has added a turning vane halfway along the step area and there is a more defined slot gap on the upper edge.
At the rear of the car, ongoing experimentation with the floor – which has proven to be the site of multiple developments across all teams thanks to the aerodynamic rule changes for 2021 – also continued with a different cut in the middle of the floor similar to what Aston Martin introduced in Bahrain.
Racing director Davide Brivio said Alpine had “found some improvement” with the upgrades but also felt there “might be a possibility these upgrades will be more useful at other tracks”.
“But we are quite happy,” he said. “And I think we did an improvement, we came closer.
“Of course, we have a number [what the upgrades should be worth in future races]. But I don’t want to say the number to not make too much expectation or make disappointments.
“Let’s see. But of course, we have a number, we have some feeling of improvement. We feel it’s better and that’s why we keep going.”
Alonso lamented his own performance over the Imola weekend but Ocon fared better, qualifying in the top 10 before falling down the order after the team opted to start him on wet tyres rather than intermediates.
He was only elevated into the points after the huge crash that wiped out Valtteri Bottas and George Russell but felt Alpine now has a “spot in the top 10” – while also identifying more of its specific issues.
“We had the potential to be P7, P8, something like this,” Ocon reckoned.
“The dry pace was actually quite solid. We were quicker than what we saw.
“We’re not where we want to be exactly, but we’ve made a step this weekend. We’ve made upgrades that we felt good in the car driving it, myself and Fernando.
“The stability in the car is pretty good. It’s not the area that we’re lacking pace in. We’re not the fastest in a straight line so potentially things we can still work on there.
“But we’re lacking some pace in some corners too, some medium-speed corners, some traction zones.
“The car to drive feels good, feels together, this weekend I had good confidence and it’s probably why I got to Q3.
“I want to keep that going, but we need little more steps like we had this weekend to potentially get a few more places and get closer to the guys in front.”