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Alpine exclusive: 'Massive advantage' in not having Red Bull as customer

Alpine's Matt Harman believes that not having to supply customer power units has put the team in a stronger place competitively.

Alpine technical director Matt Harman says not having to supply "distraction" Red Bull Formula 1 power units is a "massive advantage". The long time relationship between Red Bull and Renault fractured in the turbo hybrid era owing to the French manufacturer's struggle to get on par with Mercedes and Ferrari units, meaning Red Bull were left fighting for occasional wins. In mid-2018, it was announced that the partnership would cease, with Red Bull switching over to Honda power from '19 onwards, leaving Renault as a supplier to McLaren as well as their own works squad, now badged as Alpine. McLaren elected to return to Mercedes units for 2021, meaning Renault are the only team not to have any customer supply deals with only the Enstone-based outfit running their offering. However, Harman believes this has rewards for the team throughout the process, from design, building and racing.

Harman on Red Bull distraction

"I think there is a massive advantage, and there is no distraction," Harman exclusively told RacingNews365.com when asked about Alpine-Renault's unique status. "Having lived through being a works team and supplying others working on the engine side where we would have supplied others, there is always an element of distraction and things you always have to compromise to make sure your product can fairly interact with other chassis. "With us, we don't have any of that. It's quite good that our conversations are all about first principles engineering, about how we're going to design and architect the engine, how it fits into a car organically – we don't have any conversations about any compromises."

Harman on customer teams

Despite the absence of a customer squad for the Alpine-Renault engine programme, Harman did see the benefit of having one aboard, even if they were a step behind the main works outfit. "Customer teams do bring something to the party, and in the fact that they will come up with an idea in the act of adapting the engine to satisfy that idea, you may well learn something," he explained. "Sometimes you miss out on some of that information, and also on a bit of reliability, but it's also the case that in my previous experience, the customers haven't always run the latest equipment. "The reliability side of it can be beneficial, you can learn a lot more by having different samples, more understanding, more data, but in the end, we didn't need it. We've managed to fix it for next year's engine. "But it is really, really important sometimes to have more data samples, so that would be a disadvantage for me [in not having a customer team], but the freedom of thought and the freedom of exploiting what you want to do in your car without any hindrance is quite big."