Alpine explains why its fix for engine problems had to wait until 2023

2023 F1 season

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Alpine and Renault have made a major effort to fix the reliability problems which dogged their 2022 campaign.

The team suffered a series of engine failures last year which left them fighting a rearguard action against McLaren to hold on to fourth place in the championship. Team principal Otmar Szafnauer says they were unable to address the cause of many of their retirements.

“Last year we made significant improvements on performance,” he told media including RaceFans at Alpine’s launch last night, “but we did suffer some reliability niggles. We couldn’t fix them in-season, but we could over the winter.”

Formula 1 introduced a freeze on power unit development at the beginning of last year. However teams are allowed to make changes to fix genuine reliability problems, which Alpine took advantage of.

Alpine A523 liveries, 2023
Pictures: Alpine reveal A523 in regular livery and pink colours for first three races
Szafnauer said the team prioritised improving the performance of its power unit last year over ensuring its reliability, because it knew the latter could be addressed later. “Because the FIA give you the latitude to fix those things, we made the right choice: Push up performance and then fix reliability.”

The executive director of Renault’s engine division at Viry-Chatillon, Bruno Famin, explained the changes made to prevent a repeat of last year’s failures.

“Our main problem last year was the water pump. We had some other issues like some connection on the oil system. But except the two big failures we had in Singapore mainly the major part of our reliability issue in 2022 were due to the water pump.

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“Unfortunately the location itself of the water pump was a bit problematic.” The team had to alter both the engine and chassis, which meant waiting until the off-season.

“We had to make some modification on the pump itself, of course, for the new location, and the car itself,” Famin confirmed. “That’s why it was just not possible to change it during the summer last year.

“Very quickly, we saw that the problem would be almost impossible to solve totally during the season. We tried to improve or to reduce the risk of failure. But we in fact decided to work on the new car, we changed the water pump, we changed the location of the water pump. And this is what we have done on the A523.”

The team also reinforced the piston rings on its power unit following the problems experienced with high-mileage examples last year.

Famin says he is “as confident as it’s possible to be before the first race” that the problem has been fixed. “All the dyno tests are okay. We made some endurance tests with no problem.

“But the dyno is the dyno, the track is the track and let’s see on the track. But we are as confident as we can be.”

While Famin says the change have had “no impact on the performance in one way or another”, he said the team significantly reduced its deficit to its rivals last year. “I know the 2021 figure and I can tell you that Alpine reduced a lot, the gap, a lot.”

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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3 comments on “Alpine explains why its fix for engine problems had to wait until 2023”

  1. It may have been just smoke and mirrors, but the way it was explained make a lot of sense. After all, I think everyone (specially Alonso :) had the same thought: If they know what it is, why can’t they just fix it?

    Water pump and pistons… not exactly “pinnacle of technology” when it comes to such complex hybrid units. I was expecting the new split turbo MGU-H to be responsible for some of those failures.

  2. All of the above, but mostly to wind up Alonso after he’d decided to leave.

    1. Alonso is Alonso, I respect him as a racer but politically he is his own worst enemy and with each team change he just puts himself in a worse competitive position. Obviously there is no “next team” after Aston Martin so I hope he has a smooth transition into retirement like Seb had.

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