Alpine Sporting Director Alan Permane says Aston Martin’s emergence as a regular front-running threat in Formula 1 in 2023 has “caught everyone by surprise.”
Last season witnessed contrasting fortunes for the two long-standing midfield outfits, with Aston Martin languishing down in seventh place and 118 points behind Alpine in fourth.
That came after Otmar Szafnauer traded the Silverstone-based team for Enstone, but Fernando Alonso made the reverse decision last year to join Aston Martin for 2023.
The two-time F1 champion’s decision has been an inspired one as Aston Martin has surged ahead of the midfield pack to challenge the front-runners, with Alonso scoring podiums in both races to take place.
Although Alpine registered a double points finish in Saudi Arabia, Permane has admitted the team aren’t yet happy with the relative pace of its A523 car.
“It’s not satisfying that we’re not where we want to be in terms of pace,” he outlined via Autosport. “We want to be a bit quicker than that, up fighting those guys.
“I think we are closer to Ferrari and closer to Merc than were last year. I haven’t really had a good analysis of it yet, but I’m sure we’re closer to Ferrari, because at this time last year, they were fighting for wins.
“Obviously, Aston have made a huge leap, and we’re fifth quickest team, which is not where we want to be.
“Our target was to be closer to third place. That isn’t the case at the moment. Actually, it may be, because if you say Mercedes is the third-quickest team, maybe we’re closer to them than we were last year.
“But it’s not good enough. It’s not where we want to be, and I think Aston have caught everyone by surprise by the jump they’ve made.”
While Aston Martin has been able to overhaul Ferrari and Mercedes to finish third in both races, Red Bull has surged ahead of everybody to dominate proceedings.
The reigning champions have secured successive 1-2 finishes, including in Jeddah when Max Verstappen started down in 15th place after a driveshaft failure.
Permane, therefore, admits that it’s unlikely anybody will catch Red Bull this season.
However, the long-serving Enstone associate believes that Alpine can progress closer to the front by adopting a consistent development plan like last year.
“It does look like no one’s getting close to Red Bull this year, they look like they’ve got a second a lap in hand honestly,” he claimed.
“It’s frustrating. We just need to keep working hard and bringing the upgrades and putting the downforce on. Keeping on keeping on, and that worked very well for us last year.
“We brought a lot of stuff last year, we’ve got good correlation. So we can be very confident that parts and upgrades we bring will work the car, we just need to improve it at a faster rate than the others do.”
Following feedback from its drivers at the first two rounds, Permane adds that Alpine’s 2023 package is currently lacking a bit of performance in every area.
“I suspect it’s a little bit everywhere. The drivers want a little bit of an improvement in braking, they want some better traction,” he explained.
“There’s not one real area where they’re really complaining about. We need to improve everywhere, I’m sure.”