Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer is confident that Fernando Alonso will have a competitive car in 2022.
Speaking to Spanish publication AS, the 57-year-old said his team's car will develop over the course of the season and will improve in terms of performance.
On being asked if they could produce a car fast enough for Alonso, Szafnauer said:
“Because he is 40 years old? I hope so. I remember when I was 40 and I didn’t get tired. Now I’m 57 and I do get tired. This year, what we have to do with Fernando, and also with Esteban [Ocon], is to improve the car more than the others.”
While their car was good enough to qualify for the top 3 in Melbourne, a hydraulics failure compromised Alonso’s grid start. The safety car and pit strategy hampered his race finish.
However, according to Szafnauer, the Alpine engine is 10hp more underpowered than the front-runners. This is usually a gap that can be made up for on the aerodynamics side.
Speaking about the developmental curve of their car, Szafnauer said:
“If we do that, what we learn this year we can apply it next year. At the end of the year we will be able to see how our learning has been, compared to the rest. We will give Fernando the car he needs. We’ll see how the season goes – it’s just started – but I don’t think we did a bad job in the winter. We will improve during the season, we will go up.”
Since Alpine’s 2022 challenger can be developed further over the next 20 races, Szafnauer believes there is scope for improvement in their performances.
The team principal is satisfied with the package produced over the winter and believes it is too early in the season to judge the car. He did confirm that there would be an upgrade for the car at the Imola GP weekend.
Alpine hopes to have Fernando Alonso for a longer period as he wishes to race for a few more years
Fernando Alonso's contract ends at the end of 2022, so he will definitely be considering his future in the sport. However, Otmar Szafnauer believes those decisions can wait until mid-season.
The Romanian-American team principal feels they can provide Alonso with a competitive car to help him decide whether to continue in the sport.
Speaking about his plans for the future at the Australian GP, Alonso said:
“I will race, I guess, a couple more years, two or three more years. If it is with Alpine it will be good, if it is with another team it will be good as well, but I will find out and I will start these discussions probably in summer. Let's see.”
When asked about Alonso’s comments, Szafnauer said:
“I don’t know what he means here, of course. But I hope so – Fernando is a great asset, a World Champion, a gigantic help to be competitive on the track. In the meantime, we have him this year. These future decisions will come in July or August when the ‘silly season’ starts. And until then we will learn a lot about the car and I’m sure he will have more information to make a decision.”
Based on both the Alpine driver and team principal’s comments, it is evident that discussions about a future contract will begin in July or August.
By then, Fernando Alonso and Alpine will have a fair idea of how competitive they can be together. However, with F2 champion Oscar Piastri sitting in the wings, the Spaniard will be pressured to deliver performances to secure his seat.