Formula One

F1 BWT Alpine 2023 Preview: Still the Top Mid-Field Team?

BWT Alpine finished the 2022 season as the best of the mid-field pack, ahead of McLaren. After a relatively quiet pre-season test, the French team has drawn some attention from its rivals, with many believing that BWT Alpine did not show its true potential in Bahrain.

Formula One F1 BWT Alpine Car 2023
Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523. 25.02.2023. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day Three. –, EMail: [email protected] © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images – Photo by Icon sport

BWT Alpine was one of the teams at the center of the rumour mill in 2022. Having to choose between Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri, the French team ironically ended up losing both drivers because of its own indecision. It did manage to snag Pierre Gasly from AlphaTauri in the end, but it will be interesting to follow how the one-time race winner adapts to his new home.

Unlike most teams, which have mostly invested on a subtle evolution of their 2022 cars, BWT Alpine took an extremely aggressive approach to develop its 2023 contender. The A523 is significantly different from the A522, but how well that will translate into race pace remains to be seen.

With Aston Martin having seemingly moved up a step, it could be said that BWT Alpine will still be at the top of the mid-field pack – although that would mean fighting for fifth, rather than fourth, in the constructors’ championship.

Formula One BWT Alpine 2023 Team Preview: Can It Retain the “Best Among the Rest” Crown?

Pole Positions0
Constructors’ Championships0
2022 Constructors’ Standings4th (173 points)
BW Alpine’s F1 stats

The gap between the top of the field and the rest of the pack widened in 2022. While eight of the ten constructors scored at least one podium finish in 2021, only one team outside the top 3 in the constructors’ standings achieved that feat last year. Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes scored 65 out of 66 possible podium positions over the course of the season.

Reality in the F1 mid-field is, indeed, completely different: forget about chasing Red Bull – catching up to third place was already a daunting task in its own right.

Despite this, BWT Alpine did have another solid season. Even without a single podium finish, the French team scored 173 points – 18 more than its 2021 tally. BWT Alpine also left a fair share of points on the table because of reliability issues.

The team will look quite different in 2023, and that’s not just talking about the car. As mentioned earlier, BWT Alpine was holding the driver’s market domino. With Fernando Alonso in the final year of his contract and feeder series’ superstar Oscar Piastri waiting on the wings, the French team struggled to come up with a decision.

As it is well-known, Alonso signed with Aston Martin, while Piastri entered a contract dispute in an attempt to sign with McLaren. BWT Alpine eventually lost the battle, and suddenly found itself without the two drivers.

The Enstone-based squad had to scramble and find a solution. Luckily for it, BWT Alpine managed to bring Pierre Gasly over from AlphaTauri, forming an all-French pair.

Losing Alonso could hurt BWT Alpine. Aside from his solid results on the track, the two-time champion also provided the team with some valuable feedback. Ocon, having spent more time with the squad, should in theory slide into the team leader role. Can the French duo make BWT Alpine close the gap to the new top 4?

BWT Alpine Drivers in F1 2023

Esteban Ocon returns for a fourth season with the team, dating back to Renault in 2020. The 26-year old is signed through the 2024 season. Pierre Gasly is also signed through the 2024 season after joining from AlphaTauri.

Esteban Ocon

Pole Positions0
2022 Drivers’ Standings8th (92 points)
Esteban Ocon’s F1 stats

Although Ocon failed to score a podium for the first time since joining Renault/Alpine in 2020, the Frenchman matched his career-best eighth in the drivers’ standings. He also finished ahead of Alonso in the points table after losing out to the two-time champion in 2021. Ocon only missed out on the top 10 in six of the 22 races, with a best result of fourth in Japan.

Now with four seasons at BWT Alpine under his belt, the 26-year old from Evreux should, in theory, take over as the team leader. Ocon has improved every year since joining the Enstone-based operation in 2020, finishing 12th in 2020, 11th in 2021 and eighth last year.

Repeating his success from the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix doesn’t seem very likely at the moment, especially considering the gap between the top 4 teams and the rest of the field. But finishing inside the top 10 in points is definitely achievable, and should be Ocon’s primary goal for 2023.

Pierre Gasly

Pole Positions0
2022 Drivers’ Standings14th (23 points)
Pierre Gasly’s F1 stats

Gasly will step into uncharted territory this year, which will be his first away from Red Bull’s programmes. The Frenchman had spent every year since 2014 under the Austrian company’s umbrella, all the way up to Formula One.

But with Sergio Perez extending his contract, Gasly’s chances of a return to the main team – from which he had been demoted halfway through the 2019 season – looked slim at best.

Looking for a fresh start after a disappointing 2022 season for AlphaTauri, the 27-year old from Rouen decided to split with the Italian team, only a few months after signing a contract extension for 2023.

Gasly joins his longtime friend Ocon in an all-French pairing for BWT Alpine. At the very least, the one-time Grand Prix winner should have a much better year than he did in 2022. Can he get acclimated to his new team fast enough, and close the gap to Ocon?

F1 BWT Alpine Car 2023 – The A523

Although the ruleset did not change that much from 2022, BWT Alpine took a radical approach to its 2023 challenger. In Ocon’s words, the A523 made the A522 “look like a toy” in comparison.

Following the trend for 2023, BWT Alpine managed to reduce the size of its cooling components, achieving a much narrower sidepod. The top part has a pronounced concave channel, and the front of the sidepod is also positioned much higher. BWT Alpine also managed to narrow the air intake, another popular trend for the new season.

In an effort to save weight, the French team redesigned its rear suspension. Technical director Matt Harmon stated that the A523 is now below the minimum weight, an area at which BWT Alpine struggled with in 2022.

Another noticeable chance compared to the A522 is the redesigned front. BWT Alpine had a surprise in store, changing to a raised center section in its front wing. The concept had been adopted by Aston Martin and AlphaTauri for 2022, but both teams have since abandoned it. BWT Alpine, on the other hand, believes that the design will improve the car’s downforce. The new front section also has a different nose, which now much flatter and extends all the way to the main wing plane.

Will BWT Alpine’s bold design choices pay off on track? Both the drivers and technical directors have sounded unusually optimistic. It’s tricky to get a read on the team’s true potential, as BWT Alpine did not set a single laptime on the softer compounds in Bahrain. We will only find it out once the lights go out at the Sakhir Circuit.

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