Alpine reveal how Mercedes trick inspired 2022 boost

Alpine engine chief Bruno Famin has explained how a change in their Formula 1 power unit concept was the “most important” factor behind their up-turn in performance.

The French manufacturer’s engine program had lagged behind rival offerings from Mercedes, Honda and Ferrari over the turbo-hybrid era, but a change in concept propelled Alpine forward in 2022, as they secured fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.

Although there were some reliability problems in the second half of the season, much to Fernando Alonso’s frustration, these were expected as performance was targeted over reliability at the start of the campaign.

Also crucial was a decision made at Viry-Chatillon to split the power unit in a way first pioneered by Mercedes at the outset of the turbo-hybrid era.

© XPBimages

© XPBimages

Alpine’s Mercedes decision

In 2014, Mercedes elected to split its turbo and compressor within the power unit, connected by a crankshaft.

It brings aerodynamic gains, with Honda believed to have followed suit in 2017.

The change in architecture had long been planned in the Renault power unit, with the new design being bolted into the back of the Alpine A522 for the 2022 season.

And as Viry engine boss Famin explains, it was a crucial decision.

“We had a totally brand new power unit in 2022 with major changes in the packaging,” said Famin.

“The most important change in terms of the packaging was the split turbo which improved the aerodynamic performance of the car, that is the evidence of the way we are now working with Enstone (where the chassis is built).

“We have not only been working on the PU itself, we have been working on the performance of the car.

“Of course the performance of the PU is very important, but if we can have a gain on the aero side, on the chassis side, [or by] making some compromises on the PU side, we will do it and have worked a lot on it.

“In terms of integration, weight and cooling, it is not just a change in the technical philosophy, but a change in the way of working globally with Enstone.

“It has been a positive season in terms of performance and we really closed the gap [to the other manufacturers]there are no more significant differences between the best and worst PUs on the grid.”

Reliability concerns for Alpine and Renault

Alpine will enter their third season in 2023 as the only team to run the Renault power units, with solving reliability concerns a big priority for the engine side of the operation.

Water leaks proved to be a major problem in 2022, with out-going driver Alonso voicing his displeasure a number of times following retirements.

However, the team headed into the season knowing that unreliability could be a problem, having prioritized performance gains over the winter.

Power units are now homologated in their performance-spec, locked in until the new 2026 rules arrive, although reliability upgrades can still be added.

Famin explained the thinking behind taking such a calculated risk.

“We took quite a lot of risk in trying to develop the engine as late as possible and taking a risk in not doing the full validation process,” he said.

“We could have done it normally, but we really wanted to push to the very last moment, sometimes a bit too late because we had some issues, but we really wanted to push the maximum on the development.

“Our strategy was clear and to be back in the game in terms of the PU, and it has been achieved.

“With [engine development being] frozen for four years, the strategy was to do something with the performance and have the possibility to solve the reliability issues [later].

The actual engine itself proved to be strong for Alpine, with the failures endured by Alonso and Esteban Ocon mainly due to “auxiliary” parts such as the water and fuel pumps, with Famin “quite optimistic” that this will be rectified for 2023.

Leave a Comment