Updated: Feb 9, 2022
Written by: Morgan Holiday, Edited by: Daniel Yi
The 2021 season of Formula 1 has seen the introduction of two “new” teams. Alpine (rebranded from Renault), and Aston Martin (rebranded from Racing Point). Last year’s Racing Point was arguably the third fastest car on the grid, only finishing fourth in the constructor’s championship due to a 15 point penalty imposed on the team by the FIA for copying the 2019 Mercedes W10, while Renault finished fifth.
This year, both teams performances have been closer, with Aston Martin suffering a performance loss most likely due to new regulations hurting their low rake car. Going into the summer break, Alpine has the lead over Aston Martin, sitting fifth in the Constructors Championship with 77 points, while Aston Martin with 48 points is 7th behind AlphaTauri.
So far, which team has had the upper hand has been dependent on the race weekend. At the season opener in Bahrain only one point was scored for Aston Martin by Lance Stroll, while his teammate Sebastian Vettel was out of the points. Fortunately for them, Alpine didn’t manage to score points either, with Esteban Ocon in 13th place and Fernando Alonso retiring from the race. Aston Martin also outscored Alpine during the second round in Imola, but a 7th and 8th place finish for Alpine in Portugal set them on the track to recover from their pointless start to the season.
Sebastian Vettel collided with Esteban Ocon in Bahrain
Aston Martin was the first of the two teams to take a maiden podium, with Vettel’s P2 at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. After a rough start to the season, Vettel has been slowly making progress, in contrast to his teammate Stroll, who started strong but currently sits P14 in the standings with a mere 18 points to his name.
Of course, Alpine’s big moment came at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the final race before the summer break. Turn 1 chaos and a little bit of rain allowed Ocon to come away with his first win, as well as the maiden win for the rebranded Alpine. Alonso finished the Hungarian Grand Prix in fourth, after a stunning effort to defend from Lewis Hamilton for several laps in a car much slower than the Mercedes. Questions about whether Alonso was fit for a return to Formula 1 were answered as the Spaniard had his best finish of the season so far.
Alonso & Ocon embrace following Alpine’s maiden win in Hungary
In contrast, Aston Martin had a weekend to forget, with Vettel’s hard won P2 resulting in a DSQ after the team failed to provide a sufficient fuel sample. Their efforts to appeal this ruling were shut down, and that tragedy, along with Stroll’s DNF at the start of the race, saw Alpine pull away from their rivals with a strong lead.
Although both teams struggled at the start of the 2021 season and failed to live up to expectations, it seems that Alpine has done a better job of recovering. Aston Martin had a better start, but then dropped off a little whereas Alpine has slowly but surely been making a comeback. And while Aston Martin’s podium in Baku cannot be ignored as a point in their favor, Ocon giving Renault and team Enstone their first victory since Japan 2008, a race won by none other than Ocon’s current teammate Alonso, is a defining point, not just for the team but for the 2021 season as a whole.
It’s possible Alpine will pull away from Aston Martin as the season continues, although the British racing team will be back with a vengeance after their devastating end to the first half of the season. There’s also AlphaTauri to contend with, who will be amongst the two teams in the fight for P5 in the constructor’s championship. Given both the team’s current trajectories, Alpine seems to be the one to bet on to win over it’s fellow rebranded team, although it’s clear that Aston Martin won’t go down without a fight.