Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer has likened Aston Martin’s Bahrain podium to the team’s previous top-three finish at the same event in 2014.
Szafnauer worked at the Silverstone-based outfit through its various guises for over 12 years before departing his role as Aston Martin chief in January 2022.
During his time at the helm the team – then under the title of Force India – collected third place with current Red Bull driver Sergio Perez in the 2014 grand prix.
After Fernando Alonso scored a podium on his debut in green, Szafnauer underlined how Aston Martin’s Bahrain success was similar to Force India’s achievement nine years prior.
“They made the jump. I mean, to be fair to them, it’s always been a good and efficient team,” Szafnauer, now of Alpine, said via Motorsport.com.
“Congratulations to them but I think Force India in 2014 were exactly the same: in about the same relative position, podium winning. I think [Perez] qualified fifth in 2014 and had really good race pace.
“I congratulate them for making the big step up from last year.”
Alonso’s impressive third-place finish in the season opener confirmed the hugely promising pace seen from the AMR23 in pre-season testing.
Following two campaigns languishing in the lower midfield, the British entry appears to possess the speed to trouble Ferrari and Mercedes for second place in the Constructors’ standings.
Meanwhile, Alpine seem to have slipped behind slightly after finishing three positions and 118 points clear of Aston Martin in 2022.
Szafnauer, however, has made it clear the Anglo-French side must continue to focus on itself in its bid to retain its fourth spot in the standings from last year.
“What we’ve got to look at is how close we were relative to pole from last year,” he suggested. “How close were we on race pace, and where could we have finished had we not had our operational issues relative to those: was it better than last year or not?
“Because what we need to do every year is catch up. Aston made huge improvements and we’ve got to catch them too.”
Alpine endured a tough beginning to the new season, with both drivers’ respective weekends hindered by problems.
Esteban Ocon accumulated three penalties and eventually retired after starting ninth, while new recruit Pierre Gasly had to recover from qualifying last to notch two points on his Alpine debut.
Despite its various tribulations hiding the true potential of its A523 car, Gasly’s stellar charge in the late stages has given Szafnauer confidence Alpine can still mount a fight for fourth.
“I think so, we still have to do that,” the Alpine boss claimed. “I can’t remember where we were last year for the first race, but probably in a similar position.
“I think, last year, Alfa [Romeo] beat us here. Maybe even Haas beat us. Aston didn’t, McLaren were close to us. So, although there are different competitors, we have to do what we did last year, and finish fourth and get closer to the top three.
He added: “This race was not a normal race for us, we usually don’t make these operational mistakes. If we did have a normal race from ninth, I think Lance was just ahead of us. And the question to me is, if we had a normal race, could we have beaten them?
“I don’t know that yet, but we’ve got to reflect on this and do better. It’s not where we want to be, but I think we’re capable of doing better.”
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