Pierre Gasly believes his Alpine team are in Formula 1 "no man's land" after a slow start to the 2023 season.
Gasly banked ninth place in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and was looking set for a bumper haul of points with at least fifth place in Australia before he crashed out in the Lap 57 restart chaos, taking teammate Esteban Ocon with him.
After the Melbourne race, Alpine are sixth in the Constructors' Championship with eight points, with Ocon adding four of them in his eighth place finish in Jeddah.
The team had hoped to close the gap to the 'big three' (Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes) teams from 2022, but have been leapfrogged by Aston Martin who have made it a 'big four' - all of whom hold a significant pace advantage over Alpine.
Coupled with a lack of threats from behind, Gasly feels his new squad are in something of a dead-zone in the pecking order.
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No man's land for Alpine
"I wouldn't say that I'm pleased [with where we are] because we obviously want to fight higher up the grid and it feels like we’re a bit in no man's land behind the top four teams," Gasly explained to media, including RacingNews365.com, in Melbourne.
"Even though it's really close, we are still chasing and trying to get closer to those front runners.
"Generally, I think it's been an OK start, a decent start, but as a team we want to be fighting for bigger points."
After years of not being able to develop their car through a season, Alpine made a breakthrough in 2022, with most of the updates brought to the A522 working as the team intended, with Gasly banking on this track record to help propel the team closer to the big four and away from the midfield.
"I think the team definitely showed last year they were probably the best team in terms of development throughout the year," he explained.
"There is a good understanding and correlation between the upgrades they're bringing to the racetrack, so it's just a matter of time until we see new parts coming on the car.
"And obviously, there is also this part of understanding between the team and myself, really understanding what I need out of a race car to extract the maximum from it.
"Generally speaking, the overall performance hasn't been as good as we aimed for, and we'll work to make that better over the next few races."
Balve Baines is joined by RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken and Asia Correspondent Michael Butterworth to dissect the key talking points from the last week in F1.