Alpine duels with McLaren for fourth place in the World Championship. It's also a battle between two philosophies this season. McLaren focuses more on the big upgrades, Alpine takes the policy of small steps.
Formula 1 is divided into several groups this season. Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes drive in the first division, with Red Bull already surpassing its pursuers. Alpine and McLaren form the second group with a respectable gap. Alfa, Haas, Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin follow. Williams is at the bottom.
There is almost a tie between Alpine and McLaren in terms of points. France leads England by four points. This duel is also exciting in that it describes the struggle between two development philosophies. Out of necessity, McLaren brought a large package to Spain that completely renewed the MCL36. Since then, people have been more or less trapped in this update policy.
The first big serve back then was the reaction to Bahrain's stumble start. At that time, Woking was afraid that the MCL36 was completely wrong. So a large expansion stage was needed, where improvements were made in several places. Until France, McLaren bundled the next package of the larger variety. Again, the engineers touched different surfaces and areas of the vehicle.
Constant Alpine updates
It's not like Woking didn't deliver new parts to the track in between. But there is a difference to Alpine. Enstone has continued to develop this year with the exception of Monte Carlo. In the Principality, only the front axle/steering was adjusted to handle the Loews hairpin. All teams did that. Otherwise, the engineers, led by Pat Fry, upgraded the A522 at every Grand Prix. It is more of a one-off vehicle development than a facelift every five Grands Prix.
The favorite areas of activity for Alpine engineers are the underbody and the beam wing. The biggest impact came in Baku and right after that in England. Since then, the sidepods of the Alpine have looked like a cross between Red Bull and Ferrari. "We are doing well with our policy of constant steps. It helps our understanding," says the team. Because you can find out faster what works and what doesn't.
The question of the budget
This also makes it easier to marry and squeeze the new parts with the existing package. Alpine intends to continue with this selective development approach after the summer break. "Taken together, the smaller development steps bring us good progress," says team boss Otmar Szafnauer. Head of Operations Alan Permane describes it like this: "Big or small: as soon as we have something ready in the wind tunnel and in production, we bolt it to the car." There is no waiting to bundle several parts in one expansion stage. Nothing is held back.
The second half starts directly with three consecutive races. "The first races after the summer break will be groundbreaking in the duel with McLaren," believes the team manager. "It won't be that easy for either of us to find the jump for the 2023 car. Because we both want fourth place in the world championship." Alpine is targeting a good performance step for the Singapore GP.
Some other teams frown. "How can it be that Alpine doesn't exhaust the budget cap and still comes up with new parts at every race?" The French answer is: efficiency. It's just not enough to compete with the big ones. As a chassis and engine manufacturer, Alpine has everything under control. One has all the tools in Enstone and Viry. And yet the Formula 1 peak in racing trim is a second away. With old and this season with completely new cars. There isn't one area where Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes stand out. "They're better everywhere," says team manager Permane.