Alpine has admitted it failed to hits its targets for aerodynamic development this year as the team heads towards a third consecutive fifth-place finish in the constructors championship.
Executive director Marcin Budkowski believes the team’s true performance lies “somewhere between fifth and sixth place depending on the tracks”. It moved ahead of AlphaTauri for fifth place at the previous race in Qatar. “So in a way we’re probably over-delivering a little bit [on] the pace of the car if we do finish fifth,” he said.
Finishing fifth in the championship for a third year in a row “can be seen as a stagnation”, Budkowski admitted, but said it was a product of strategic decisions the team took to prioritise development of an all-new car for Formula 1’s overhauled technical regulations. These were originally due to arrive in 2021, but were delayed by a year due to the pandemic.
“We are using pretty much the same engine for the third year, pretty much the same chassis and the same gearbox for the third year in a row,” Said Budkowski. “We were planning to use them for two years, it was a conscious, strategic decision. We weren’t planning to use them for three, but that was the result of Covid and the current regulations being extended by one year.
“So with a car that has pretty much the same mechanical basis, we’ve managed to maintain our position in the championship and actually get closer to pole position, closer to the best. So that shows that the other areas of the team have moved forward and have progressed, the ones that we haven’t frozen.
“That’s quite exciting for next year because we’re going to develop everything, we’re going to have a brand new engine, we’re going to have obviously a new chassis and new aero because the rules are changing, we were starting from scratch and we’ve seen that with the right opportunities the team can do a great job in developing the areas that we could develop and then operate the car athe track. The trackside team’s proven this year that they can do the job. So it’s in our hands now to do the best possible package for next year.”
Budkowski stands by the decision to delay introduction of their new engine, but admitted it had been tough to take the performance hit which came with it.
“The fact that we froze the engine three years ago certainly made us lose some ground because our competitors have developed it. It was a strategic decision, it was related to preparing the new regulations and the new cars. I think it was the right decision with the resources we have. Obviously it’s painful because we see some of our competitors progress.
“It’s the same for the chassis, the gearbox maybe they are less differentiating directly, in performance, but they enable you to change the geometry of your car and evolve it to to find more performance. So we suffered from this.”
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Although teams largely carried over their 2020 chassis to this year, some changes were permitted and the regulations imposed some new aerodynamic restrictions. Budkowski said the team hadn’t adjusted to those as successfully as they expected to.
“Aerodynamically, we’ve developed the car. I think we haven’t done the best job of these changed regulations from ’20 to ’21, these modifications to the floor, mostly. Some people have done a better job than us and equally some people have done a worse job than us. So we’ve missed a bit our targets.”
However he does not believe a better aerodynamic package would have helped them to a higher position in the championship.
“If we hadn’t missed [the targets] we’d be more comfortably in fifth position, but I don’t think we would have been able to challenge [McLaren]. We would have been much closer.”
Alpine have raised their game in other areas which bodes well for the 2022 F1 season, Budkowski believes.
“There is always regrets but there’s lots of positives in the way the team works in the last few years the team has improved massively. Last year we had lots of issues with the reliability of the car, this year, still two races to go in, but we’ve had effectively one real DNF that was related to a car issue.
“The trackside team has proven very, very good management of the tyres, the strategy, the racing, the interaction with the drivers. So there’s a lot of positives to take and lots of positives also that are not visible yet in the factory in terms of how we’re developing next year’s car which is full of new technology and new stuff.
“So it’s frustrating sometimes, we would have liked to make a bit more progress this year. But equally, we’ve done it for a reason and it’s because we focussed for a while now on next year and and hopefully that pays off.”
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