Alpine F1 anticipate ‘challenging’ start to 2024 season

Following three days of pre-season testing, all ten Formula 1 teams are now hard at work analyzing every bit of data, trying to maximize their knowledge base ahead of next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Among those teams? Alpine. While there are reasons to believe the team took a step forward with the A524, following a season that saw the team hampered by a deficiency in their power units that had them appeal to F1 for a reprieve, it is still hard to truly place them on the F1 pecking order ahead of the season.

In their own words, however, the team expects a “challenging” start to the 2024 campaign.

“Now is the time to work through the data and concentrate on optimising the package we have in our hands ahead of next week’s first Grand Prix. We know where we stand,” said Team Principal Bruno Famin in Alpine’s post-testing media report. “We are expecting a challenging start to the year as we continue to learn more and more about our A524 to develop it across the season.”

Over the three days of testing, drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly combined to complete 334 laps, and minimal reliability issues appears. Gasly missed some testing time due to a red flag on the second day of testing, as well as a loose wheel brow on the third day. Still, reliability does not seem to be a problem for the A524 at the moment.

Also on the positive side of the ledger both drivers posted faster lap times than a season ago. Of course, the standard caveats about reading too much into lap times during testing apply, but Gasly posted a best time of 1:32.149 on the final day of testing this year, ahead of the 1:32.762 he posted a year ago. As for Ocon, the 1:33.079 he posted on Thursday eclipsed the 1:33.257 that was his best time a year ago.

Both drivers seemed a bit more confident after the three days drew to a close.

“Overall, it was a productive three-day test for us, probably one of the strongest during my time at the team. Since I jumped in the car, from Day 1 everything has been faultless and strong from an operational standpoint,” said Ocon. “The car has been working reliably and we managed to complete our testing programme. We improved the car and made progress from the first day to the last day.

“But we have a lot of work to do and it’s going to be interesting now to go through all the data and understand where we can make improvements. Three days of testing is short for a new car, so there’s still a lot to learn and extract from our package. Thanks to everyone at the team here, at Enstone and Viry for the long hours over the winter. Now it’s time to go racing.”

As for Gasly, it was a “productive” three days.

“We did a lot of testing this week and now we have an important week coming up where we will go through all the data and continue our understanding of this new car concept,” described Gasly. “It’s vital to learn all about the entire package and understanding how we can optimise it.

“On my side, it’s been quite tricky at times especially as we missed out on some running both yesterday and today. The red flag was unfortunate on Day 2, then this afternoon we had the wheel brow coming loose from the car and that meant we missed a couple of laps at the end. Still, it’s been a productive test for the team across the last three days and that is most important. I’m definitely excited for the first race.”

As for Famin, who steps into the Team Principal role on a permanent basis this season after serving in that capacity on an interim basis a year ago, while the start to the season may be challenging, the reliability the team saw from the A524 this week is certainly a positive.

“It’s been a solid three-day test for the team where we’ve focused on ourselves and committed to a comprehensive and important test [program],” noted Famin. “We have been operationally strong all week and demonstrated great teamwork between both factories and the trackside team, which has been good to see. Our reliability has been good and that has enabled us to complete our test plan as expected.”

This is certainly a big season for Alpine, who hope to enjoy some stability — as well as reliability — after a tumultuous 2023 campaign. The biggest question facing the team is whether they have taken a step forward with the A524, and can avoid the power deficiencies that held them back a year ago.

Hopefully the reliability, and improved lap times from a year ago, they saw this week are a sign of good things to come, even if a challenging start to the year awaits.

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