Nov.22 (GMM) Team boss Otmar Szafnauer says Alpine’s 2023 teammate is “better” than the Renault-owned team’s original plan.
The Enstone based team had intended to pair the continuing Esteban Ocon with Oscar Piastri next year – before rookie Piastri denied his 2023 contract was valid and he signed with McLaren.
“I am happy because our lineup with Esteban and Pierre (Gasly) is better than it would have been if we had won that (Piastri) case,” Szafnauer told AS newspaper.
He was asked, however, if Fernando Alonso alongside Ocon would have been even better.
“Good question,” Szafnauer answered. “This year we have had a great driver lineup, Fernando has done a fabulous job and he is still super-fast.
“I’m happy with my lineup but ask me next year and I’ll answer.”
On the face of it, 41-year-old Alonso is leaving Alpine in frustration at a year filled with reliability breakdowns.
Nonetheless, when standing next to Ocon at a fan event in Abu Dhabi, he said he would miss the team.
“Lie!” Frenchman Ocon joked. “He said he’s happy to go!”
Alonso added: “Ok, I’m happy to go. At the same time I will be sad. Hopefully next year I go to a more competitive car.”
Szafnauer doesn’t deny that Alonso is frustrated with Alpine’s reliability record in 2022.
“Yes, of course he had more breakdowns than Esteban. We know that, and always when he could score good points. I’m not happy about it either,” he said.
“But if we hadn’t had any problem with Fernando, we still would have been fourth in the constructors’ championship. It was our objective and we achieved it.
“Fourth was the best we could do this year so the decision to go for engine performance at the cost of reliability was the right one.
“It’s a good base for next year because the car changes slightly – it will be basically the same with a significant change in the floor,” Szafnauer added.