Written by Hugh Waring, Edited by Debargha Banerjee
Alpine, the Formula 1 team, has unveiled a series of plans aimed at revitalising its performance and improving its standing in the sport. After facing criticism from company CEO Laurent Rossi due to a disappointing start to the 2023 season, Alpine has demonstrated its determination to turn things around.
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer has announced several initiatives that are currently in progress or have already been committed to. One of the major developments is the introduction of a new state-of-the-art simulator, set to be operational by 2025 ahead of the 2026 technical rule changes. Alpine has also recruited a new head of simulation to bolster its efforts in this area.
Szafnauer highlighted the need for an upgrade by explaining that the team's current simulator is approximately 20 years old, having been acquired from McLaren about a decade ago. With the new simulator, Alpine aims to enhance its preparation and performance by achieving more accurate lap simulations. This will enable the team to arrive at race weekends better equipped and closer to their optimal performance level.
In addition to the simulator upgrade, Alpine is focused on strengthening its aerodynamics department. Despite expanding since Renault took over the operations at Enstone in 2016, the team is not yet at maximum staffing capacity. Szafnauer cited the example of Aston Martin, which successfully fast-tracked its progress by hiring personnel from Mercedes and Red Bull. Inspired by this strategy, Alpine is now actively seeking senior aerodynamicists to enhance the team.
The team principal emphasised the importance of recruiting top talent from successful teams. By hiring aerodynamicists who have worked in championship-winning environments, Alpine hopes to tap into their expertise and insights. While Alpine aims to shortcut the development process by acquiring the knowledge of experienced individuals, they also recognize the need to build a capable team around them to ensure continuous progress.
While Alpine's parent company, Renault, remains fully committed to funding the Formula 1 team, there have been rumours of potential investment from external sources. Speculation has grown following a sponsorship deal between Alpine and American automotive retailer AutoNation, leading to suggestions that AutoNation could become a shareholder in the team. The presence of Alpine CEO, Laurent Rossi, and Renault CEO, Luca de Meo, at the Miami Grand Prix, where the sponsorship deal was announced, further fueled these rumours.
Although Szafnauer did not confirm the completion of a shareholding deal, he hinted that developments were taking place in that regard. The interest shown by external parties reflects the appeal of Alpine's F1 project, and additional investment would provide a welcome boost to the team's infrastructure and resources.
Alpine's commitment to improving its performance and competitiveness in Formula 1 is evident through these plans. With a new simulator, increased focus on aerodynamics, and the potential for additional investment, the team aims to resurrect its fortunes and establish a stronger presence in the highly competitive world of Formula 1.
Szafnauer quoted saying:
“If you have perfect simulation tools or close to it, then you start the weekend pretty close to your local optimum for that race.”
“We've hired people to help us with more accurate lap sims and, if you can do all that work before you get to the track, you're closer to where you're going to end up.”
“You want to shortcut the process,” Szafnauer said regarding hiring from other teams.
“Red Bull has an aerodynamic team of 50 people, it's not one, but the guy who sits on top of the 50, he gets all the ideas. So, when you displace him, his brain is full of all those learnings.”
“But then once you've got that, you still need that team of 50 underneath to continue the development, because you only shortcut it one spot at a time.”
“So, what I said about Red Bull probably having 50 people. We're at 38, we want to grow to 45. So, we have spots for seven or eight senior aerodynamicists here. We have those spots.”