Former team member Denis Chevrier thinks the political and managerial chaos at Alpine has been powered by an uncompetitive car.
The Renault-owned team finished fourth overall last year, but has now slumped to sixth after Alpine lost Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin.
Alonso’s successor was Frenchman Pierre Gasly.
“The car was born as it was born,” Gasly’s manager, Guillaume Le Goff, told RMC. “A little out of step with what we expected.
“So yes, there is a bit of frustration on that side,” he explained, after Alpine sacked its team boss Otmar Szafnauer and long-serving sporting director Alan Permane last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.
“We didn’t leave Alpha Tauri to fight for a point or two. That’s no secret,” Le Goff added.
According to Chevrier, the former engine boss at Viry-Chatillon, one problem is quite well known in the paddock at present as Renault is pushing for special dispensation to improve its power unit amid the current freeze.
“The few whispers I hear from Viry tell me that they thought they had made significant progress on the engine,” he said. “Both in terms of performance and reliability.
“It seems like a decent power unit. The problem is that it’s only in those two cars. So you learn a lot less and much less quickly than the others.
“That’s one of the drawbacks,” said Chevier.
But he also said the chassis team at Enstone should not be off the hook.
“From a chassis point of view, the car lacks performance compared to the others,” said the Frenchman, who left Renault and retired at the end of 2007.
“There is a lack of structural performance in the car. You have to recognise that it’s all very close with small gaps, but it’s a car that hasn’t shown the improvement that a car should be making.
“The others are managing to improve,” Chevier added.
Former French F1 driver Olivier Panis explained: “It’s not a bad car, but it’s not good enough on a regular basis and it seems difficult to set up.
“It’s not good enough on aero and that’s essential. I think they’ve gotten a bit stuck.”
Former works Renault driver Rene Arnoux says how good a Formula 1 car is comes down to a very simple fact – the people.
“You absolutely need five or six engineers, in every field, of absolutely irreproachable value. Without them, you have this result,” he said.
“Behind the cars, you need ultra-competent people to make it all work. They should look at that because the world championship has become a championship of engineering and strategy,” Arnoux added.
And the final ingredient, Chevrier concluded, is confident drivers.
“How do you get confidence in a car that doesn’t inspire it?” he asked.
“When a car is not efficient or difficult to set up, or inconsistent, there’s nothing worse for a driver. It’s awful.”