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Alpine adjusts as new era begins

Written by Jacob Awcock, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri


It's been a season to forget for Alpine Racing, after last season's heroics saw the Enstone-based team finish fourth in the constructors championship ahead of Mclaren, as well as scoring thirty top ten finishes. 


The dynamic duo of veteran Fernando Alonso and Frenchman Esteban Ocon proved fruitful, scoring a combined 173 points to finish ‘best of the rest’ and claim bragging rights over the rest of the field. 


Yet reliability woes continued with Fernando Alonso experiencing five of the team’s seven retirements all season. Frustrated, he left in a shock move to Aston Martin, replacing the retiring Sebastian Vettel, yet the drama had begun long before and all stemmed from the new 2021 season. 


The COVID-19 pandemic led to a series of new regulation changes scheduled for 2021, the large-scale changes pushed back to 2022. 


This allowed for teams to try something new for 2021, and that's exactly what Alpine did, opting for a new three-man system, consisting of Laurent Rossi as CEO, Marcin Budkowski as executive director, and Davide Brivio as race director. 


This meant that the team unusually had no designated team boss to run the team. Questions were posed as to how successful this system would be, bearing in mind this would be Alpine’s debut season in Formula One. Yet, doubters were proved wrong, as the team managed fifth in the constructors championship, scoring two podiums, one even being a surprise win in Hungary for Esteban Ocon. 


The first changes began in early 2022, as the team began a technical restructure, with several people being adjusted to take different roles. 


While the team performed in 2021, they felt a sense of doing better, and Otmar Szafnauer was introduced as team principal in 2022, with only Laurent Rossi remaining in the team, retaining his original role as CEO. He claimed that it would “take the team to the next level” with Otmar bringing a wealth of experience from his time as team principal at Aston Martin. 


Budkowski had left the team a month prior, while Davide Brivio was moved to essentially oversee the team’s driver development programme. 


A strong 2022 campaign was overshadowed by a poor 2023; Image credits: James Gasperoti/Getty Images

Managerial changes were also followed by manufacturing changes for 2022, with the team opting to take up an all-new engine design for the season ahead. The team chose to adopt a strategy Mercedes used since the start of the turbo hybrid era, splitting the turbo and compressor sections of the engine into two separate parts. 


This enabled a change in the centre of gravity of the car, whilst making the car much lighter, and easier to cope with in adverse conditions. This however had already proved to be a difficult topic, following former Alpine non-executive chairman splitting with the team due to tensions with CEO Laurent Rossi. 


The team’s advisor Alain Prost expressed concerns over the reliability of the new engine, issues cropping up even in testing, which Rossi passionately defended, claiming it was down to the engine department being pushed as hard as possible for maximum performance. 


Everything seemed to settle down, though, with the 2022 season starting strongly for the team.  Despite three retirements in the first half of the season, at least one driver had scored points in all races apart from the Emilia Romagne Grand Prix in Imola. 


However, the team’s plans would be thrown out of gear mid-season, following Sebastian Vettel’s retirement from the sport. 


Then came the surprise announcement of Fernando Alonso replacing his compatriot at Aston Martin, leaving Alpine in a search for a new driver. The obvious replacement would be reserve and development driver Oscar Piastri, and an announcement seemed imminent. 


As expected, Alpine announced the news. However, it was all about to be flipped on its head.  Shortly after, Piastri shocked the world, releasing a statement saying Alpine had published a statement  “without his agreement” claiming he would be racing for them next season, and this was “not true”. 


The impending silence was deafening. Alpine did not expect this to happen and neither did F1. Alpine quickly withdrew their statement, and after a long hunt, Pierre Gasly was announced as Alonso’s replacement. Despite this being a humiliating experience for Alpine, things were set to get even worse for the team.


In an interview with the BBC, Piastri claimed it was a “lack of trust” which led to him rejecting this role at Alpine. These comments echoed those of Fernando Alonso, who also expressed similar concerns around Alpine. This was a reputation Alpine did not need or want to have, yet it seemed out of their control at this moment.


The team finished their season in a strong fourth place position, their highest ever, and were tipped by seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton as possible championship contenders for 2023. With a new driver line-up for 2023, a boost from 2023, an experienced director and CEO, all negatives from the year earlier were squashed, the team having plenty of optimism for 2023. Maybe a bit too much.


Bruno Famin had witnessed it all at Alpine but he would be the latest departure. Image Credits: Peter Fox/Getty Images

“Stuttering” was how Laurent Rossi described the team’s first five races, and demanded improvements. He threatened to make “changes” if his goals were not met. Despite a podium in Monaco, it was not enough, and Alpine sacked Otmar Szafnauer just before the Belgian Grand Prix with the team having scored just 13 top ten finishes all season. 


Bruno Famin would step in and take the role of interim team principal, while sporting director Alan Permane suffered a similar fate to Szafnauer, being sacked the same day. Alpine seemed to be crumbling under the lofty expectations posed on them for 2023. 


The senior team at Alpine had seen enough, sacking Laurent Rossi from his position as CEO, just after the Hungarian Grand Prix, and replacing him with Philippe Krief. Rossi would be moved to focus on smaller projects within the team. 


Despite leading the team through this transformation, Rossi would not be able to see it through fully, and instead he would have to pass the reins over to Krief who would take charge immediately. Despite a double retirement in his first race, the new CEO led the team to sixth in the constructors championship, claiming one more podium, and 12 further points finishes, albeit a long way off Aston Martin in fifth, with work to do for 2024.


The questions would range around Alpine bouncing back from a disappointing 2023, and performing to the standards expected of them for 2024. The latest change in this long-term reshuffle was the dismissal of Davide Brivio, following nearly three years in his latest role. 


The drivers remain somewhat optimistic with Esteban Ocon claiming he is “hungry” for next season, looking forward to proving that last year was just a dip in the team’s performance.


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