Alpine and McLaren are fighting for fourth place in the world championship. Both teams are pushing for major upgrades for the Singapore GP. At McLaren, however, only one of the two drivers will be able to enjoy the new sidepods and underbody.
The front seat is taken. In addition to the drivers' title, Red Bull will also secure the trophy for the Constructors' World Championship. Unless a landslide happens in the last six races of the 2022 Formula 1 season. Ferrari and Mercedes are fighting for second place. The two separate 35 points. Ferrari has the faster car, Mercedes is better positioned in the operational business.
In the league below, the duel between Alpine and McLaren is raging. With advantages for the French national racing team. Alpine has accumulated 125 points over the first 16 races. The load is distributed on both shoulders. Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso score regularly. McLaren is different. Lando Norris contributes 88 of the 107 points so far.
The roles are clearly distributed. Norris is the team leader, Daniel Ricciardo the problem child. That's why it was also clear which driver would get the upgrade if production only managed one thing - like at the Singapore GP. McLaren baked newly formed sidepods and underbody for the night race, but only one kit could be flown to the track in time.
Mix of Red Bull and Ferrari
Norris will test the expansion stage on practice Friday. The teammate is driving with the old package for comparison. McLaren then wants to launch a second kit in time for the race in Suzukua a week later.
With the side box, McLaren is copying the Red Bull RB18 a bit more than it has already done. The inlet is now designed in such a way that the lower part docks further forward on the chassis than the upper part - creating a kind of protruding lower lip. According to the team, McLaren was inspired by Ferrari for the underbody.
For McLaren it's the next big hit this season after Spain, France and Belgium. The inflation surcharge levied in the middle of the season helps. That added about $4.3 million more to teams who can afford it. McLaren is one of them, and can throw more new parts into the battle for fourth place in the World Championship.
New underbody for Alpine
The big opponent never rests. Alpine is also following suit for the Singapore GP. The French have done well this season with their policy of small steps. Engineers modified the A522 for practically every race. It should continue like this until the GP in the USA. Then the development of the 2022 car is over.
For the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix, Alpine is equipping both cars with a completely new underbody.Unlike McLaren, here both drivers enjoy the latest specification. Alpine speaks of a clearly measurable progress on the stopwatch. At least that's what the wind tunnel promises.
Will the promising numbers also come true in reality? That will become clear on the training Friday. So does McLaren. New parts don't necessarily make a car faster right off the bat. The engineers first have to understand what the upgrades do and how they affect the rest of the racing cars.
To make matters worse, the route from Singapore is mostly green on Friday. The cars first have to drive the dust and dirt off the surface. The grip ratios could dilute the picture. That's why Alpine will only screw its new underbody to the car in the second practice session.
The drivers have to be careful on the narrow street circuit. Especially Lando Norris. If the upgrade turns out to be actual progress, he must not have an accident in the qualification if possible. A return to the old specification would be punished with a start from the pit lane.