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Szafnauer: Championship push is vital for Alpine in McLaren battle

Otmar Szafnauer feels Alpine must be looking for a championship challenge - just to stay ahead of McLaren in the Constructors' Championship.

Alpine must target a Formula 1 championship challenge just to stay ahead of midfield rivals McLaren, believes boss Otmar Szafnauer. The team made hard work of claiming fourth in the 2022 Constructors' Championship in a fight with McLaren, but eventually finished 14 points ahead to seal 'best of the rest' accolade behind Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes. Despite the achievement - the Enstone entity's best since Renault was fourth in 2018 - Szafnauer feels they must get closer to challenging for the championship to maintain position versus McLaren.

Szafnauer issues Alpine challenge

"We have to be a step closer to being able to win a championship," Szafnauer explained when asked by RacingNews365.com what the target would be 2023. "It's what we wanted to do in 100 races - and we've now got less than 80 to go. "Right now, we are fourth but [14 points] away from fifth and it is still marginal, but we need to be closer to third next year. "We need to be closer to third than we are fifth next year - even if we stay fourth, we've got to make progress [on closing the gap to third]."

The McLaren fightback

While Alpine generally had the faster car in 2022 over McLaren, repeated reliability failures put their chances of finishing P4 in the Championship at risk - with Fernando Alonso believing nearly 70 points were lost. Some of these were scooped up by McLaren - and chiefly through Lando Norris, who was the only driver outside of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes to score a podium with a third place at Imola. Norris finished seventh in the Drivers' Championship ahead of both Esteban Ocon and Alonso, but McLaren's charge for fourth was blunted by a poor season from Daniel Ricciardo in the second car. For 2023, Ricciardo is out and is replaced by fellow Australian Oscar Piastri who was snatched from under Alpine's noses by McLaren - the details of which were exclusively revealed by RacingNews365.com. Faced with a rejuvenated driver pairing at Woking, Szafnauer admitted the threat that McLaren poses. "If you look at the points, it's not as simple as saying: 'Let me double Lando's points and where would they be?' It doesn't quite work like that. "But absolutely, in the midfield you need two drivers that can score. "It punishes you more in the midfield if it is just one [driver scoring regular points] as the points on offer aren't that big. "Usually if one finishes 12th and the other is eighth, as opposed to seventh and eighth or eighth and ninth, it makes a difference."

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