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Alpine sacrificed reliability over performance with Alonso engine failures

Fernando Alonso has suffered a string of engine failures throughout the 2022 season, which Alpine say is down to the team prioritising performance over reliability.

The Mexican Grand Prix marked another retirement for Fernando Alonso during the 2022 season due to reliability issues. Despite looking on for a best-of-the-rest finish in P7, the Alpine driver's engine lost a cylinder with 20 laps to go and eventually retired from the race and lost a potential six points. Alonso's teammate Esteban Ocon also suffered from power unit-related issues but was able to finish, with the team telling him to 'lift and coast' towards the end of the race due to a water leak that caused the temperatures to run high in his car. After parking the car on the exit road at the first corner, the Spaniard could be heard over the team radio sighing "what a season" before getting out of the car. Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer says the main reason for the reliability issues is because the team focused more on performance, given that the current Power Unit regulations are in place until 2026. "We must not forget that at the beginning of the year, we set out (before I was at the team) to focus on performance, because the powertrain was going to be frozen," Szafnauer told media, including RacingNews365.com . "We made a conscious decision to push the performance envelope and fix reliability issues as we got to them, because the FIA allows that. "We didn't do it on purpose to not be reliable, but if you have to err on a side, you push the performance boundary because you can't add performance now until 2026. "But you can fix reliability issues, and we can do it over the winter. So strategically, I think it was the right thing to do."

Szafnauer: Alonso not driving the car differently to Ocon

The Spaniard believes that he's lost 60 points over the course of the season due to his reliability problems, claiming that these issues happen more frequently on his car compared to Ocon. Szafnauer confirmed that while different people in the team's power unit department prepare the engines for both drivers, there is nothing from the data to suggest that Alonso is driving the car differently to Ocon. "We don't have the same people preparing Esteban's engine or Fernando's engine who mix around," he explained. "So, although the probability is lower, the probability of this happening isn't zero, so it can happen. But it is lower [probability] to always have it on one side or the other. "I remember when I was at Honda, I can't remember how many engine failures Takuma Sato had, like 13 in a year, and Jenson [Button] had none. "At that point, the questions were always 'Does Takuma drive it so much differently than Jenson that it always happens on his side?' - I think it was just the luck of the draw. "It's not that we can [point and] say 'oh, it's this set of circumstances, it's always on Fernando's car' that we can see."

Szafnauer has faith in engine department

Although the failures have been commonplace for Alonso, there have been different problems throughout the season, according to Szafnauer. The engine department was able to understand the root cause and make changes to ensure they haven't happened again, which is why he has faith they can get on top of the reliability problems for 2023. He added: "Although I spent seven-and-a-half years at Honda powertrains, they've got a much deeper understanding [of the problems] and they'll figure it out. "Strategically, that's what we set out to do. Every time we have an issue we fix it, it doesn't come back, so this was a little bit different than [the problem] we had in Singapore. "Over the winter, we'll make even more reliability improvements [because] you can't improve the performance, it is what it is, and we'll be better off. "We've got to remember this powertrain has to last till 2026. So for sure, it was the right strategy." The team currently sit fourth in the Constructors' Championship ahead of McLaren by seven points with two races left in the season.

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