Can Alpine reach the summit?

In 2021, two Formula One teams hit the rebrand button, these were Racing Point who have rebranded as Aston Martin F1 and Renault, who have rebranded the Formula One Team as Alpine.

Alpine are Renault’s sportscar brand, tat the time of writing they have one model of car, the Alpine A110, with 3 types to chose from.

The Alpine A110-s, is one of the models that Alpine produce

The “Renaulution” as it has been dubbed by Groupe Renault, was not just confined to the Formula 1 Team, this new business strategy has also seen the World Endurance Championship team head over to the Alpine brand.

Alpine and Formula 1

Alpine and Groupe Renault have probably been one of the busier teams in the off season. With the re-branding of the team underway, they had some interesting and somewhat surprising personnel changes.

The Beautiful Alpine A521, the first Formula 1 car under the Alpine branding

Prior to any racing being completed in 2020, it was announced that Daniel Riccardo will be heading to McLaren, replacing the Ferrari bound Carlos Sainz. Daniel’s move to McLaren was a loss of confidence in the Renault/Alpine project.

With McLaren moving away from Renault Power Units for 2021, it made it even more clear that the Australian driver had decided that Renault could not match up to what he was expecting.

Renault’s Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul released a statement regarding the move, which was surprising in the lack of mention of Daniel, instead comments were made regarding loyalty and commitment.

The statement shows that Riccardo made the right decision to move on.

“in our sport, and particularly within the extraordinary situation, reciprocated confidence, unity and commitment are, more than ever, critical values for a works team”

Cyril Abiteboul, Renault F1, Team Principle

 

Fifth

The 2020 season finally got under way with Esteban Ocon returning to the grind after a year working with Mercedes, and Daniel Riccardo.

Daniel Riccardo had the measure of his teammate, finishing fifth in the drivers standing on 119 points, Ocon would finish on 62 points and twelfth in the standings.

Daniel Riccardo had a decent campaign, with only one DNF at the opening Grand Prix in Austria, he would finish in the points in all but two races (not including the DNF). Riccardo would finish a highest of third in two races (Eifel and Emilia Romagna).

Esteban Ocon celebrates finishing second at the Sakhir GP. This was a highlight in an otherwise underwhelming season.

On the other side of the Renault garage, Esteban did not have as good a season, with 4 DNF’s and a further three non-points finishes. Although he finished the season on a high note with a second at the incident packed Sakhir Grand Prix, unfortunately does little to hide the fact that Daniel Riccardo had a better season, it was not even close.

2021 and Alpine

With the rebranding of the team complete, Alpine and Groupe Renault decided that they need some new personnel to help push the team further up the grid.

In what was probably the most surprising move, Cyril Abiteboul (who was expected to move into a more senior role within the Groupe, left the company. Cyril had been with Renault since 2001, he was instrumental in bringing Fernando Alonso back to the team.

Davide Brivio joins Alpine as Racing Director

Corporate discussions within Groupe Renault, led to the decision to giving the Alpine C.E.O role to Laurent Rossi a role that would encompass Formula 1 activities.  This decision led to Cyril Abiteboul leaving not only the Formula 1 team but Groupe Renault as a whole.

This move seems to be part of the company overhaul, overseen by Luca de Meo, who took over as Groupe Renault’s C.E.O last year.

It was de Meo’s decision alter the strategy for its Formula 1 team opting to use the Alpine branding.

Another recruitment was Davide Brivio, this appointment has been well received, he joins from MotoGP after successful championships with Suzuka. He is widely regarded as a great man-manger, which can only be a good thing when you have Fernando Alonso driving the car.

Alpine have also moved away from the traditional, team principle led Formula 1 team, with Marcin Budkowski named as the Executive Director and Davide Brivio named Racing Director.

In this structure Budkowski will be based at the factory overseeing the running and development, while Brivio will be based with the team at the races.

The Return of Fernando

2021 sees the return of the two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso to the grid. the Spaniard retired at the end of 2018 after an unsuccessful stint at McLaren.

Fernando Alonso returns to Formula 1 after an unsuccessful spell with McLaren

As soon as it was announced that Daniel Riccardo was leaving the (then) Renault team, Alonso’s name was at the top of the list, it was a short list as Fernando Alonso was eventually announced as returning to the team that brought him his two drivers titles in 2005 and 2006.

Fernando is an unbelievable talent, a talent deserving of more than his two World Championships would suggest. He had an unwavering desire to race and race well, conversely, he will not shy away from criticising the team if the fall short of his exacting standards.

It will be interesting to see how Davide Brivio, will cope with the fiery Spaniard, especially if things are not going to plan.  

Esteban Ocon needs to have a better 2021 season.

Esteban Ocon must be worried, with the return of one of the greatest drivers in Alonso, and the less than stellar 2020 campaign, he will have to show the team and Formula 1 that he deserves his place on the grid, with Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly showing hammering in some impressive performances. He does not want the management to start paying attention to Pierre, he needs a performance to give them reason to keep their eyes firmly on him.

Alpine have rebranded and restructured, all this work will be in vain unless there is a marked progression. Can (a soon to be) 40 year old Fernando Alonso help to bring more points to the team?

If all else fails, at least the car looks good.