Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Simran Kanthi
After sacrificing the last few seasons in preparation for 2022, it was set to be the year Alpine finally broke the midfield barrier that separated them from the top teams. While that wasn't quite the case, their latest season can still be considered a success. Sort of. The French team may have finished fourth with 173 points, making last year their best since they returned to the sport in 2016. They also managed to beat what has been their closest rival in the past few seasons, McLaren, to the 'best of the rest' spot. However, statistically speaking, 2022 was a downgrade compared to 2021. There was no repeat of the shock win in Hungary, as well as no podiums for either driver. On top of this, while often fast, the A522 proved to be quite unreliable, with mechanical retirements for either Esteban Ocon or Fernando Alonso in Saudi Arabia, Australia, Imola, Britain, Singapore, Italy, and a couple of other events. When the car did work, performance varied, the car sometimes proving more than a handful for the Mercedes, while other times it was very much buried in the midfield sea. Most of the season was spent racing their aforementioned rivals McLaren, outpacing them more often than not, especially on Sundays.
Alpine's season may have gone alright on track, but off it, it's safe to say the French team had a very rocky year. Relationships between Alonso and Ocon kept getting worse, as displayed by their on-track antics, leading the Spaniard to sign with Aston Martin seemingly out of nowhere. The team then announced they'll be promoting Oscar Piastri, only for the Aussie to publicly state he won't be driving for them, having signed a contract to race for McLaren in 2023. While it wasn't an easy year overall - much of the blame for that falling is on new recruit Otmar Sznafnauer - Alpine's upward trajectory and its new lineup of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon promise speed, consistency, and quite possibly fireworks.
Fernando Alonso's strong end to 2021, culminating with a podium at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, should have set him up for more success in 2022, especially since the team finally seemed to be making real progress toward the front. Instead, a string of misfortunes helped sum up his entire year with the words "what if". Mechanical problems in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Australia Qualifying, Singapore, Italy, Mexico, Abu Dhabi, and a couple of other races seriously hindered his chances of a standout result, though there were still some great performances. An excellent drive to the points in Spain after a Q1 elimination, doing the same in Austria, getting seventh in Austin after temporarily going airborne, reaching the top five in Belgium and Brazil, beating a Ferrari and two Red Bulls retrospectively. There were of course some bad moments too, like Miami, which was a complete write-off, or the sprint race in Brazil where he collided with his teammate. This, amongst other reasons, caused the Spaniard to switch to Aston Martin for 2023 and beyond, where he's hoping he will finally get that elusive third drivers' title.
Best Race: Brazil; After a pretty torrid sprint race that left him 17th on the grid for Sunday, Alonso used all his race craft and skill to climb to an incredible fifth, ahead of both Red Bulls.
Having been beaten by his much more experienced teammates in 2020 and 2021, Esteban Ocon joined an elite club consisting of Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, and Jarno Trulli by finishing ahead of Fernando Alonso in the 2022 standings while they were teammates. Mind you, the Frenchman suffered two DNFs to the Spaniard's six and made life difficult for both of them more than a few times by aggressively defending his position, Hungary and Brazil being the best examples.
Ocon spent most of his season consistently finishing in the points, in the bottom half of the top 10. His drives were on the whole unremarkable, as was his speed on Saturday, Alonso proving the faster of the two overall. That being said, there were some outstanding performances, namely in Austria, Miami, and Belgium, where he managed to score points after starting at the back, as well as one very notable race we'll get to in a bit.
Despite the odd glimpse of brilliance, Ocon finished eight, 30 points behind the inferior McLaren of Lando Norris. And with his old rival, Pierre Gasly joining him on the team in 2023, he'll have to prove his worth once more.
Best Race: Japan; Qualified well and kept the faster Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton behind him for 28 laps in less-than-ideal wet weather conditions.
Having shown excitement and appetite again for Formula 1 on seeing the new generation of cars, Fernando Alonso opted to return to the sport in 2021, signing a deal with Alpine, formerly Renault, with whom he last tasted glory almost 15 years ago. While his first season back was a strong one, Alonso's consistency being a strong point, it was 2022 he really set his sights on, his radio message at the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi, "The best is yet to come next year, I promise," giving a strong message of the Spaniard's sights for the new era.
While 2022 saw Alonso put in some really strong performances across the season, it was also one marred by torrid luck and misfortune, sprinkled with reliability-induced DNFs and poor strategies costing the Spaniard a lot of points. After points in the opening race at Bahrain, Alonso's next points came only at his home race in Spain, five rounds later. An amazing performance in wet weather qualifying saw him get his first front-row start in ten years in Canada. Alas, his hopes of a strong finish were quashed following a deficit of power for half of the race and a late-race penalty dropping him down to ninth. His highest finish of fifth came on three different occasions, in Silverstone, Belgium, and Brazil. He even surpassed Kimi Raikkonen's record of 349 race starts during the season but was outscored by his teammate for only the second time in his career, albeit after having a very unlucky season. Now in the green of Aston Martin, he will be one to watch out for in 2023.
Best Race: Which one do I pick, then? Alonso drove many strong races across the season, but his drive to seventh in the US Grand Prix at COTA was one of the best. A mid-race collision with future teammate Lance Stroll saw Alonso sent airborne and almost out of the race. Nonetheless, Alonso survived his scary crash, made it back to the pits, changed his front wing, and set off on a recovery drive from dead last to finish seventh at the chequered flag.
After a relatively inconsistent 2021 season, despite a maiden race win in Hungary, 2022 proved to be a much stronger year for Esteban Ocon. Improved consistency and fewer misfortunes across the season saw Ocon become only the second driver to outscore Fernando Alonso across the Spaniard's career.
Ocon finished in the points in the first three races of the season. Another strong drive from dead last on the grid to eighth followed in Miami and kicked off a flourishing period for the Frenchman, one which saw him finish in the top ten for nine of the next 11 races, only losing out on points due to a post-race penalty in Monaco and being a casualty of the lap one collision at Silverstone. Two reliability-induced DNFs came at Monza and Singapore, before a sterling fourth place on a rain-sodden Suzuka circuit. Ocon rounded out the season with more points concluding with a seventh-place finish in Abu Dhabi.
With an old foe and friend Pierre Gasly joining forces with Ocon at Alpine in 2023, one can expect plenty of fireworks at the Enstone-based team for the season to come.
Best Race: His drive to fourth at a wet Japanese Grand Prix was his stand-out performance in 2022. Starting fifth, the Frenchman made it into the top four after Carlos Sainz crashed on the first lap and kept his place to Lewis Hamilton, fending off numerous attempts from the Briton to overtake during the race, retaining fourth by the chequered flag.
Fernando Alonso once again proved in 2022 why he is still considered up there with the very best in F1, despite losing out to teammate Esteban Ocon in the standings. A season full of reliability woes cost the Spaniard masses of points in Saudi Arabia, Australia, Imola, Italy, Singapore, Mexico City, and Abu Dhabi. However, despite this, Alonso still stood out on many occasions, a 5th in Silverstone after he was involved in the epic five-car battle, a 5th in Belgium despite lap 1 contact with Lewis Hamilton, with a further 5th place in Brazil despite lining up 18th. Alonso finished in the points every race between Spain and the Netherlands, with reliability being the only factor in not extending that streak. A front-row start in Canada where reliability would again hamper his chances in the race, as well as a 7th in Japan after a horrendous strategy call and a 7th in the USA despite his enormous accident with Lance Stroll. Alonso's season is full of frustration with so many strategy calls and reliability issues costing him hugely throughout the season, explaining his shock decision to jump ship to Aston Martin where hopefully things will finally look up for him.
Best Race: There are so many to choose from, but the recovery drive to P7 in the USA after going airborne mid-race is the pick of the bunch for me, Alonso at his very, very best.
Esteban Ocon joined a very exclusive club of drivers to beat Fernando Alonso as a teammate across a championship season, albeit it doesn't tell the entire story, but Ocon's season was still respectable in his own right. Ocon displayed consistency throughout the entire season, regularly finding himself in the P6-P8 bracket, battling Lando Norris in 'best of the rest'. An unremarkable season all things considered but respectable nonetheless, as Ocon continues to solidify himself as a very impressive midfield driver, with the hope of a top seat in the future. With compatriot Pierre Gasly joining forces in 2023, Ocon will have a battle on his hands to claim the bragging rights at Alpine and will need to do so if he wants to progress in the future.