Alpine's Renault engine 'within 10bhp' of front of grid

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Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer believes the team's Renault power unit is within 10 brake horsepower of the best on the grid.

A strong start to the 2022 Formula One season has seen Alpine score points in each of the first three races.

Esteban Ocon has finished in the points in every race, though Fernando Alonso has failed to do so in each of the last two events, suffering misfortune in Saudi Arabia and Australia.

After struggling with engine performance last season, the team at Renault's Viry-Chatillon powertrain division concentrated on delivering a major upgrade for 2022.

Szafnauer has been impressed with the work they have done, the strength of this year's engine carrying extra significance because of a development freeze in place until the end of 2025.

"We think we've made a step on the power unit," Szafnauer said. "And we're within probably 10bhp of the best, and somewhere in the middle.

"I think Viry have done a brilliant job. And it's up to us now to keep developing the car.

"So that [the development freeze] allows us to work closer with our power unit team to make some improvements that we might be able to make with architecture changes on the chassis.

"Some other things that are still free to us. But also to now focus with what we have to improve on the chassis for the future."

Alonso was forced to retire in Saudi Arabia after a water pump failure led his engine to overheat, with Alpine unable to save that unit.

He was on a lap that may have put him in contention for pole in Melbourne, only for an oil pressure drop to force his engine to shut down in Q3.

The two-time world champion was last among the 17 drivers to finish the race, having seen several strategy calls backfire.

"It was O-ring on an oil seal," said Szafnauer of Alonso's qualifying failure. "The O-ring fretted, the oil leaked out.

"We have a fail-safe mode to try to save the engine, so when you see a drop in oil pressure, the fail-safe mode kicked in. And that's what happened. So the fix was an O-ring change."

F1 returns to action in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this weekend at Imola, where Ocon and Alonso finished ninth and 10th respectively last year.

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