Schumacher confident Alpine can optimise WEC tyre warming procedures

The timing of a red flag in qualifying, triggered following a spin for Dries Vanthoor’s BMW, contributed to Alpine’s two A424 LMDhs lining up 17th and 18th for last weekend’s second round of the championship at Imola.

But speaking ahead of a difficult race for the French marque, which was compromised by both cars being embroiled in a first corner incident, sportscar rookie Schumacher stressed that the new-for-2024 cars run by the Signatech team are «improving with each event» and expressed confidence in the growing knowledge it has in working with Michelin tyres.

Asked for his impressions of bringing the tyres up to temperature as he adapts to the WEC, former Haas Formula 1 driver Schumacher noted that while he had previously raced without the luxury of tyre warmers in Formula 2 and Formula 3, the rear-axle hybrid Alpine «is a lot heavier».

«That means you have a tyre sensation which feels like it gives you a lot of grip and then suddenly it might snap on you and you don’t actually quite grasp why,» the German said. 

«That’s what we’re trying to understand right now, is where is the cut-off line between how much do you push on each set. 

«Frankly, for us being in the second event and to already have an understanding of being able to, after a couple of laps, be able to switch the tyres on – maybe not as fast as some other teams, but we’re still able to switch them on – I think we’re in a very good position. 

«At the end of the day, Imola is quite a bit different compared to Qatar, but I think it’s already a step forward. 

#36 Alpine Endurance Team Alpine A424: Mick Schumacher

#36 Alpine Endurance Team Alpine A424: Mick Schumacher

Photo by: Andreas Beil

«We’re improving with each event and we’re improving with each test in the knowledge that we’re grasping.

«I don’t have a real concern there that we’ll be able to get on top of it and at some point be able to put in the lap whenever we want to put in the lap.»

Alpine is returning to the top class of the WEC this year for the first time since 2022, when it used a grandfathered ORECA LMP1 chassis rebadged as an A480, having raced in the LMP2 class last year as the ban on tyre warmers in the WEC came into force.

Schumacher’s team-mate Paul-Loup Chatin explained that «there is a big step» between the procedures involved with bringing the Michelin used in Hypercar up to temperature and what the team experienced on the Goodyear tyre in LMP2 last season.

«It’s much more difficult,» noted Chatin, who took a class pole at Le Mans last year in IDEC Sport’s ORECA-Gibson 07 before rejoining the Signatech squad he’d last raced for in 2015 for its Hypercar programme.

«If you push, you can be a hero, but in one tenth you can be a zero because you lost the car. 

«And right now, it’s one of the most important topics, to be better on that. 

It was a bruising start for Alpine at Imola

It was a bruising start for Alpine at Imola

Photo by: Paul Foster

«We saw some teams like us, some teams are maybe a bit better than us right now, so there is a big way to improve. 

«It’s not an easy part of the job for the driver.»

Alpine’s frustrating race at Imola was capped when both cars were issued post-race penalties, as Hypercar debutant Jules Gounon and Nicolas Lapierre didn’t complete the minimum driving time.

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