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Formula 1 British GP

Why Alpine's new F1 technical boss is confident it can bounce back

Alpine's executive technical director David Sanchez has been impressed by his first few months at the F1 team despite its 2024 struggles so far

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A524

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A524

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

After a disappointing start to its 2024 season, Alpine has continued to evolve its engineering structure after installing David Sanchez as executive technical director earlier this year.

Sanchez, who had left McLaren only three months after starting at the British squad in January, had been picked up by Alpine to lead a new three-pronged technical structure set out by team principal Bruno Famin.

This followed the resignations of Matt Harman and Dirk de Beer as the A524 produced for this season had started off uncompetitive and overweight. Things had since improved through the reorganisation to a triad of technical directors, where Joe Burnell stepped up to be the engineering lead, David Wheater leading aerodynamics, and Ciaron Pilbeam headed up performance.

With Sanchez having become available, the three technical directors now report to him, and the Frenchman feeds into Famin.

Although bringing a new technical leader in weeks after a reorganisation might suggest the arrival of more vast changes, Sanchez has stated that he is largely happy with the team he encountered upon joining Alpine.

"They are very good. Everything needed to make a competitive car is there. So I was very pleased when I joined," he revealed at Silverstone, conducting his first car presentation session for Alpine.

"Coming from outside, there was obviously a few things I tended to have my own opinion. There was a plan in place, we reviewed the plan, we adjusted a few things. For sure, the car needs a big push on upgrades. We are working on it and it's going pretty well for now.

"This structure is becoming more and more the norm. There are big teams, so you need a lot of structure and for sure at the moment it seems to be working. We saw last year that McLaren was able to make big steps in-season."

David Sanchez, Alpine Executive Technical Director

David Sanchez, Alpine Executive Technical Director

Photo by: Alpine

Adding to that, Sanchez says that the team is starting to understand its A524 more, noting the concerted effort to drop weight as a key factor. It was suggested that the car was bordering on 10kg overweight, but mass had been taken out over the opening races to ensure it became more competitive.

Alpine scored its first point of the season in Miami, and then added further scores in the races between and including Monaco and Austria, two of them double points finishes. The team hasn't managed to finish any higher than ninth, but its recent performance has generally trended towards improvement.

Sanchez says that the car now simply needs upgrades; the focus on weight reduction has largely taken performance-driven updates out of the question for the time being.

"We are learning more about the car and every race we are trying to squeeze more out of it. That's been a good trend in the last few races. And there's been a lot of learning to develop upgrades, and we should get new parts coming around the summer break," Sanchez said.

"There's been a large chunk of weight taken out of the car that cannot be underestimated. And then on the chassis side a lot, on the set-up side, getting the drivers comfortable with the balance and trying to get every little bit out of the car.

"Some of [the upgrades] were in the pipelines. Now we have a lot more coming up, plenty of ideas. And now it's trying to pedal as fast as we can. I think it's a bit of a lack of development. We just need more downforce. We need a bit more of everything, especially downforce.

"Obviously, the easy way to get downforce is to get the car running lower – but doing that without inducing problems. It's one of the limitations, but I think everyone is fighting it. Running the car lower is the easy way to get downforce. And there's a plank. There are some regulations on the skates we need to be careful. But development-wise, I think the direction is very clear at the moment."

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A524

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A524

Photo by: Erik Junius

Along with the focus on catching up in the development stakes, and none too late given that the team has been eclipsed by Haas in the battle for seventh in the constructors' championship, Alpine has captured further signings.

Two of them are Red Bull recruits: Michael Broadhurst has joined to become chief aerodynamicist, while Vin Dhanani was installed as head of vehicle performance. In the meantime, Jacopo Fantoni has left Ferrari to become deputy chief engineer, the trio adding know-how from other front-running teams.

Although Sanchez is prioritising development in 2024, hoping the team can "arrive after the summer break" in a similar position to which McLaren managed last year with its heady upgrade progress, he has already identified areas to pursue for 2025 - the last year of this current ruleset.

"I think for now we're developing around the weaknesses. This year in-season it's a lot about aerodynamics, and for next year's car when we review the hardware we try and focus on fundamentally changing a few aspects of the car and that should be another step forward," he explained.

"For next year there will be conceptual changes, again we're talking about suspension mostly. For this year we're shifting a bit focus on aerodynamics.

"I wouldn't say it's going to be big concept changes because when you look at the car it will look similar, but when you look at the aerodynamic characteristics, they will tend to be, some of them different, some of them just more powerful for performance."

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