Alpine’s Esteban Ocon says the team is targeting a retention of fourth in the championship this season following a “trouble-free” winter.
Alpine was one of the quieter teams during pre-season testing, Pierre Gasly setting its quickest lap time on the final day. That though was still just under 2.5 seconds off the pace.
Gasly and Ocon set just 352 laps between them – only the struggling McLaren pair of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri managed less – so it is hard to argue that Alpine was putting a strong emphasis on long-run pace.
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Nonetheless, this does not account for the fact that teams will have been running at various levels of intensity over the three days in Bahrain. Within that, the teams themselves will not know how hard their competitors are pushing.
The reference the Enstone-based side does have is itself, and having been with Alpine since 2020 under its Renault guise, Ocon can say that A523 is an improvement on last year.
“Obviously since we started, we had pretty much trouble-free running,” he said on day one of the test. “We almost completed the plans, we’ve not much left on it. It’s much better than last year’s testing.”
Ocon and Fernando Alonso managed Alpine’s best championship finish since 2018 last year by securing fourth ahead of McLaren.
With Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari playing in a different league, Ocon will consider 2023 a good year if he and new team-mate Gasly manage to keep hold of fourth, and begin to target the top three.
“It would be a win if we close the points down to very close to third,” explained the Frenchman. “That would be a win for us, if we keep fourth and close the gap.
“Last year, that would probably not be a win, that would be a normal thing, a normal improvement. That’s not what we are aiming for. Everyone around is going to be working and thinking the same.”
Aston Martin, whom Ocon raced for during its Force India days in 2017 and 2018, is a threat that his current employers will be taking seriously amid significant praise of the British outfit.
“You guys seem to think the Aston Martin is going to be fast,” added Ocon. “So this kind of team, I know them well.
“I’ve been working with them, and they’re also not settling to finish where they finished last year. All these guys are going to be trying to push forward. Even finishing fourth is not an easy task, clearly not – very far from that.
“We can’t underestimate anyone, finishing fourth is going to be a hell of a task already. Our aim for us will be to close down the gap to third.”
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