Szafnauer confident in Alpine’s development plan ahead of return to action in Baku

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Speaking ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer expressed his confidence in the team’s development plan, as well as the benefits of the long break ahead of the upcoming Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku.

Otmar Szafnauer on the grid in Australia in front of Pierre Gasly's A523

“I think we should, over the year, get closer.”

Otmar Szafnauer is confident in Alpine’s development for the long season ahead. When asked ahead of the Australian Grand Prix he explained the team are developing at the highest possible rate in order to remain competitive towards the front of the highly contested midfield.

Szafnauer explained that while it was difficult to predict what other teams will bring in terms of development, he is confident Alpine can close the gap to the struggling Mercedes team over the course of the season.

“Well, we’re going to develop at the highest rate possible for our team,” he said, speaking to the media. “And it’s really hard to know what they will bring. Last year, if I look back, I think our development rate was pretty good. And if we can keep up the same this year, I think we should, over the year, get closer.

“Really hard to know. As you know, it’s a relative game. I know what we’ve got coming. What I don’t know is what they have coming.”

“The break allows you to plan further upgrades…”

Szafnauer also commented on the benefits of the long break between the Australian Grand Prix and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, afforded by the cancellation of the planned Chinese Grand Prix. He said this extended down time from the track allows the team to focus on it’s development plan for the season.

“Well, the break wasn’t planned,” he noted. “But it is a welcome break from both getting ample car parts, spares as well as when we do bring developments. You know there’s a huge effort to make enough of those parts to ensure that you can really push hard – so that definitely helps.

“And also the break allows you to plan further upgrades that you find through your simulation tools, and knowing that the break is there, you plan them a bit differently – but it definitely helps.”

“We’ll take that development fight over the season to the others around us.”

Szafnauer was also asked if he believes his team will be able to compete with McLaren in Baku, as the Woking based team have a substantial upgrade package planned. He explained that Alpine not only have upgrades planned for Baku, but also the following round in Miami.

While in classic team principal fashion, Szafnauer remained vague about the team’s expectations, he remained confident that Alpine will be competitive in the races to come.

“No, we think we can fight with [McLaren],” he stated plainly when asked. “Yeah, we too have a decent-size upgrade coming for Baku and then a little bit more only a week later in Miami, so we continue to push the upgrades out.

“I mean, the important thing is that they all work when we put them on the car and we have good correlation with our simulation tools. We had good correlation last year and if that continues and if we continue to push the upgrades, we’ll take that development fight over the season to the others around us.”