Szafnauer says Alpine must focus on improving race pace

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A522. 23.04.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Imola, Italy, Sprint
© XPB 

Alpine F1 team principal Otmar Szafnauer says they the squad needs to improve its race performance over the course of the next few races to match the strong single lap speed it has been achieving in practice and qualifying.

Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest at the end of Friday's traditional qualifying session at Emilia Romagna, but lost multiple places in the sprint race to start the Grand Prix in ninth.

Alonso ended up retiring from the race on lap 6 after being hit by a spinning Mick Schumacher. His team mate Esteban Ocon suffered gearbox problems on Friday and finished the race in 11th, although he was subsequently demoted to 14th after being handed a penalty for unsafe release.

It's the first time this season that Alpine have come away from a race weekend without scoring a single point from either driver, and Szafnauer says this can't happen again.

“The good news is the car is quick,” Szafnauer told in Imola. “One lap pace looks good, we just have to work a little bit on a race pace.

"Fernando frustratingly was quick enough to be fifth and scored nothing again. Mick spun and hit him and that was it, the end of his race," he noted “Once he damaged the side pod it flew off.

"We had no choice but to pit him. A big hole in the side pod and a lot of damage to the floor, but nothing else, thankfully.”

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Alpine F1 Team A522 on the grid. 24.04.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Imola, Italy, Race

“The bad news is we had Esteban on the back foot because of a gearbox issue and then him starting in 19th," he continued. "I think it was kind of good that he ended up 11th."

Alonso was trying out a new floor design for the weekend which seemed to make a significant difference to the speed of the A522, but both drivers struggled with the soft compound tyres in the sprint race.

"We learned from the sprint," Szafnauer said, pointing out that Ocon fared better on Sunday. “Had we stayed on intermediates I think he would have overtaken some of the cars in front of him, as he was catching.

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A522 makes a pit stop. 24.04.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Imola, Italy, Race

"We didn't have the same amount of graining that we did in the sprint," he reported. "Especially on the intermediates it looked like we did a better job than those around him."

As for the unsafe release - with Ocon ushered out of his pit box right in front of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, Szafnauer said that he had been a victim of congestion on pit lane.

He had to go around somebody which meant the pitstop was slow., but he saw Lewis coming and stayed away from him," he explained. "Stroll was released in their way too and he got away with it. It is what it is.”

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