Alpine sporting director Alan Permane admits he wasn’t expecting rival Aston Martin to emerge as a front-runner in F1 this season, insisting the team’s form “has caught everyone by surprise”.
Last year, Alpine and Aston Martin were anything but close rivals, with the Enstone squad concluding its year fourth position in the Constructors standings – or best of the rest, while Aston lingered in seventh place.
But this year, Alpine has been no match for the remarkable Aston team, the latter delivering two consecutive podiums to Fernando Alonso in the first two races of 2023 while the former has so far not finished higher than eighth.
Alpine sporting boss Alan Permane talking on the grid in Bahrain with Alain Prost
“It’s not satisfying that we’re not where we want to be in terms of pace,” Permane explained. “We want to be a bit quicker than that, up fighting those guys.
“I think we are closer to Ferrari and closer to Merc than we were last year. I haven’t really had a good analysis of it yet, but I’m sure we’re closer to Ferrari, because at this time last year, they were fighting for wins.
“Obviously, Aston have made a huge leap, and we’re fifth quickest team, which is not where we want to be. Our target was to be closer to third place. That isn’t the case at the moment.
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“Actually, it may be, because if you say Mercedes is the third quickest team, maybe we’re closer to them than we were last year.
“But it’s not good enough. It’s not where we want to be, and I think Aston have caught everyone by surprise by the jump they’ve made.”
Permane believes that Red Bull will remain unassailable this season but says Alpine will continue to work hard to improve its A523 by relying on a fast-paced development programme.
“It does look like no one’s getting close to Red Bull this year, they look like they’ve got a second a lap in hand honestly,” he said.
“It’s frustrating. We just need to keep working hard and bringing the upgrades and putting the downforce on. Keeping on keeping on, and that worked very well for us last year.
“We brought a lot of stuff last year, we’ve got good correlation. So we can be very confident that parts and upgrades we bring will work the car, we just need to improve it at a faster rate than the others do.”
Asked where Alpine specifically needs to improve, Permane pointed to every area of its car according to the team’s drivers.
“I suspect it’s a little bit everywhere. The drivers want a little bit of an improvement in braking, they want some better traction.
“There’s not one real area where they’re really complaining about. We need to improve everywhere, I’m sure.”
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