Every time an Alpine (usually Fernando Alonso’s) has suffered a late-race failure in Formula 1 this season, the team has turned to the same silver lining.
Its all-new engine’s priority for 2022 was performance, as we’ve heard throughout the season. Reliability can come later. Indeed, the engines were homologated this year until the end of 2025 with only reliability fixes allowed in between. No specification changes are allowed for performance reasons.
After Renault’s years behind Mercedes, Ferrari and even Honda, considerable effort went into the design of 2022. Alpine/Renault couldn’t afford to make up the shortfall for four seasons.
It paid off, as there was no evidence that the factory team lacked power compared to their rivals. Poor short-term reliability is the price paid for it.
“It was a conscious and strategic decision,” Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer said in Mexico.
“And now when we face them [reliability problems]we can fix them.
“However, we must not forget that we have done it…not on purpose to be unreliable, but if you need to push the limits of performance, because you cannot add performance now until 2026, you can solve reliability issues.
“And we can do it in the winter. So, strategically, I think it was the right thing to do.
For the team, certainly. And Alonso was supposed to be part of it. Indeed, at the start of the season, he seemed to adhere more favorably to the logic of “pain now, payback later”. And every time Alpine found a new problem, it solved it.
So it will all be worth it if next year Alpine fixes all its weak points, and the 2023 engine is still punchy but much more reliable.
Unless that’s the case, Alonso will be out. His impending exit, moving to Aston Martin, means he won’t be there to enjoy the only silver lining of his 2022 misery.
This creates a strange contrast between driver and team, as Alonso is unhappy that his personal efforts have not been rewarded as they should have been.
He had the lion’s share of engine failures at Alpine, with five Grand Prix retirements (plus a sprint race with no start) to Esteban Ocon’s two.
This slipped more and more into Alonso’s skin, reducing the double world champion to repeatedly lamenting his misfortune and lost points.
But while Alonso will likely end up looking at an unsatisfactory driver standings at the end of the Abu Dhabi weekend, Alpine can cling to the fact that they are still in position to finish fourth in the constructors’ championship and achieve his 2022 ambition despite Alonso’s woes. .
In the end, Alpine might not lose anything. And even if he sometimes shot himself in the foot, does it really matter to beat McLaren by seven points (the current gap) or by 70?
“No, no,” Szafnauer said. “Not at this stage.
“And then, over the winter, we’ll make even more reliability improvements. And we will be better off.
“You have to remember that this powertrain has to last until 2026. So that was definitely the right strategy.”
Whatever Alonso’s willingness to support this strategy seems to have disappeared since he decided to leave the team.
He became increasingly outspoken in his assessments, while Ocon remained cautious and attentive to his comments. It was very easy to tell which rider will race for Alpine next year and which one will not.
In Mexico, for example, Alonso said it couldn’t just be bad luck and accused the team of not being prepared enough.
And it’s good. He’s had such a tough time in terms of reliability that who could blame him if his patience runs out? Especially since the big picture no longer applies to him.
Alpine, on the other hand, is all about the light at the end of the tunnel. There is a big potential gain if he corrects his obvious weaknesses. It will simply not please the driver who has suffered the most from it.