Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer has refuted suggestions he might hold a grudge against Aston Martin and McLaren for poaching Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri respectively away from the team last year.
With Esteban Ocon tied down to a contract through the end of 2024, Alpine was initially left with a conundrum of who should fill its remaining seat between Piastri and Fernando Alonso.
But when Alonso confirmed he would be heading to Aston Martin, the Enstone outfit was stung further by the revelation that Piastri had also been negotiating a switch to McLaren.
Suddenly left without a driver to partner Ocon for 2023, Alpine then pursued Pierre Gasly and was eventually successful in prizing him away from AlphaTauri on a long-term deal.
Asked at the launch of Alpine’s 2023 car, the A523, whether he now had an added incentive to stay ahead of Aston Martin and McLaren, Szafnauer argued: “I want to beat them all.
“What I want to do is focus on the things that we can control. What we control is the development of our car, both powertrain as well as aerodynamic development.
“Let’s do the best job we can and see what happens. But I don’t think we focus on beating one or two teams. We’ve got to try to beat all of them.”
After departing Alpine in rather belligerent circumstances, Alonso took the opportunity recently to issue a slight dig at his former employer’s lack of ambition by arguing only ending up fourth would not constitute success for Aston Martin’s long-term aspirations.
However, Szafnauer has hit back at the two-time champion’s remarks by countering that Alonso was one of the individuals who celebrated Alpine’s achievement of overhauling McLaren the most.
“I think when we did finish fourth; if you look back, he was as happy as everybody else who was part of the team,” Szafnauer snapped back.
“When the year before you’re fifth and your ambition is to move up to fourth, it’s not easy to do. We had to beat McLaren. I’ve been to Woking, and you walk by, and they have a massive trophy cabinet, so they’re not easy to beat.
“So I think you have to celebrate those successes when you say, look, I want to be top four, I want to be fourth not fifth. I don’t think it’s shameful to say, ‘we’ve done it and let’s celebrate’.
Following on from securing the highest midfield berth in the standings last season, Szafnauer, who is now the fifth longest-serving team principal on the current grid, has outlined the changes made at Enstone and Viry over the winter as Alpine aims to reduce the gap to the top three.
“For us, next year, if we can get much closer to third than we were this year, I’ll celebrate that too. If we’re closer and the gap isn’t that big, that means we’re making progress to where we want to go.
“This year, we have a more competitive car and the teams at both factories in Viry and Enstone have worked well to improve the overall reliability; something which did let us down at times last season.
“We continue to grow our workforce and I see a real spark of team spirit here and a high level of motivation from everyone to push this team forwards. Time will tell on where we stand in the championship order,” he pondered.