Alpine has certainly not had the best period lately. The departure of Fernando Alonso, Oscar Piastri’s refusal of the contract for the 2023 season and the feverish search for a new driver for his team are certainly not events a team wants to experience during the summer holidays. However, the end of the partnership with the Spaniard is a very unpleasant picture of the end of another, at least on paper, ambitious project of the French team. This isn’t the first time their boisterous decisions have been verified by reality. But why exactly Alpine in its current form is unable to play for higher goals and why the new long-term plans should not succeed?
The ambitious five-year plan remained in the realm of dreams
The whole story must of course start with the Renault team, which reappeared in Formula 1 with the start of the 2016 season. An ambitious five-year plan was also presented at the start of a new project. In a nutshell, the battle for the world championship in 2020 was off to a good start – in the 2018 season, the French took fourth in the overall constructors’ standings and became the best mid-stakes team. However, the next step was not taken. Instead, the process of going back in development has begun. In 2019 and 2020, Renault took fifth place in the constructor’s ranking, but fell deeper in the middle of the field in terms of performance.
The team’s first podium was achieved during the Eifel Grand Prix of 2020. In the five-year plan, however, this item had to be ticked off… two years earlier. So clearly something has gone wrong – all the more so that the Renault group has invested more mountains of money into the project. It was a time for the introduction of budget limits, so the French company did not have to regret the money for the factory team. The problem, however, was that progress was not visible at all and then came the first jokes about the burning of money in the furnace by the Renault management. It’s impossible to hide – that’s what it looked like. There were resources for development, as were the specialists and infrastructure, but development was going in the wrong direction and before it was back on track, the competition had caught up and caught up with the Renault car. All the failures have led to a reboot of the whole project and hope that things will go a little better this time. However, this did not mean that the earlier mistakes made it possible to draw conclusions.
Chaos in the structures and behind the scenes – this is the photo of Alpine
Daniel Ricciardo would become the face of the Renault project. It came from Red Bull, which was considered a kind of revenge for abandoning the French manufacturer’s engines. However, Honey Badger was not happy with the development of the car and fled to McLaren after the end of the 2019 season to the anger of Renault Group CEO Luci de Meo, among others. The person who was supposed to symbolize the team’s ascent to the top left the ship at the worst possible moment. It was necessary to look for a new leader and it seemed the choice was perfect.
Fernando Alonso is a legendary figure for Renault. It was in this team’s colors that he won his only championship titles in 2005 and 2006. The return to the old garbage, following the Spaniard’s removal from Formula 1 retirement, has been an extremely high-profile and sentimental event. In addition, since the team competed under the Alpine name from then on, it had to be a fresh start and build a new plan – El Plan – that would take the Enstone team to the top. But it was all getting old…
The first major problem was certainly the management system at Alpine. In almost every team we have a clear division into team leader and department heads. In Alpine the hierarchy was very strangely structured. In 2021 the president of the team was Laurent Rossi, the head of the team was Marcin Budkowski, and in addition we had a director in the form of Daniele Brivio. In theory, Alpine was led by the latter two, but
“boss of all bosses” was the aforementioned Rossi. This year Budkowski was replaced by Otmar Szafnauer and we still don’t know the exact division of labor. Brivio would have dealt with the drivers and Szafnauer was in charge of the development of the car.
The organizational mess was unfortunately visible in the team’s actions. It is true that Alpine is currently on an equal footing with McLaren for the title
“Best of The Rest”, but that does not alter the fact that the ambitions are much greater – and so is the money to bring the French closer to this goal. In addition, there was increasing tension within the team. Alonso is said to be unhappy with the way he was treated towards Esteban Ocon, not to mention that the car for this season fell short of expectations. The septic tank finally broke down a few days ago.
“The market was moving” and Alpine missed it?
On April 24, one of the most informed Spanish journalists in the paddock, Albert Fabrega, spoke some interesting words during his lifetime. With classic Spanish media mystery, he admitted that things were happening that he couldn’t tell, but that the market was moving. A very strong statement, however, was the fact that the departure of one of the drivers is something to be expected, but the name that will replace him is very surprising.
🚨 ATENCIÓN a la BOMBA que suelta @AlbertFabrega and so direct
“Se está moviendo ya el mercado. Se están moviendo cosas pero lo puedo decir porque me dijeron que no dijera nada.”
“El que sale no me sorprende, el q llega si. […] Bueno, es un cambio de pilotos entre equipos” pic.twitter.com/gg70yrV0af
— ElReyGuiri (@ElReyGuiri) April 24, 2022
It’s early August and it seems the change was certain Sebastian Vettel left Aston Martin, which was no big surprise, and his replacement by Alonso caused a shock to the motorsport world. It can be seen as a specific act of desperation. Magic – that’s what Alonso is called in Spain – who wanted to free themselves from Alpine at all costs, even at the cost of switching to a worse team. If Fabrega really meant this transfer, then the French should be one hundred percent prepared for it, right? It turned out to be completely different.
Szafnauer admitted on Sunday after the race for the Hungarian Grand Prix that only a few small details are missing until the conclusion of the contract with the Spaniard for the coming years. However, all these pledges were brutally verified as early as Monday. Alpine heard about the transfer… from social media. You can guess that there was panic in the stable. Perhaps Fernando wanted to have just such an effect, as he commented very eloquently on his Instagram events on his Instagram – a few second video showing his thumb up with a smile. Alonso did what he did best in his career – he burned down another bridge. He doesn’t seem to care much, especially since Alpine is now, among other things, the laughing stock. It cannot be ruled out that the two-time world champion did the same.
Piastri vs Alpine – what’s at stake?
I don’t think I need to remind you about the Oscar Piastri situation – the whole world of Formula 1 is buzzing with it, we have also described it on our website. However, the whole story is very complicated and unfortunately full of understatements. Where did such a reaction from Piastri come from? It is very likely that the 2021 Formula 2 champion is already sitting with another team after the word. Let’s remind you that since March Oscar has been one of McLaren’s reserve drivers, among other things. Combined with rumors that Piastri may already agree with Woking in place for next season, this could be the main reason for such a firm response from the Australian.
But why did Piastri decide to leave Alpine and look elsewhere for his chance? You have to put yourself in his place for a while. He is a driver who has won the FRECA, Formula 3 and Formula 2 series year after year. In three years he had no problems with the three main junior stops on the route to Formula 1. This year he was unable to get a seat in the F1 car, and what was worse, everything indicated that the road to the Alpine team will remain closed in 2023. Not being able to drive the Queen of Motorsports for two years is a torment and a waste of your career for such a talent. No wonder Oscar went looking for a new path, just like Zhou Guanyu did when he left the Alpine Academy and joined Alfa Romeo.
Alpine was no problem for Piastri as they had Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso. The problem is they don’t have Alonso anymore, and as a result they launched a very nasty game for both their junior and his manager Mark Webber – I don’t need to introduce this name.
“The official Alpine announcement came around 2:00 AM AU with no Oscar comment or response on his social media. It is impossible to explain this decision in any other way than the desire to surprise those who are interested in such information under the cover of the night.
An hour later, Piastri launched a media bombshell that shook Alpine’s reputation in the mail. He replied briefly:
“I don’t have a contract with Alpine, I won’t drive there in 2023”. The French insist they have full legal rights to use his services, but to be honest – can you imagine a situation where Piastri would now compete on the Enstone team? I can’t imagine, not after such an informative avalanche. Alonso commented on it all exactly as I described it above – smile, thumbs up. As if everything had gone according to his intricate plan…
Szafnauer: “Alonso está en un barco en Grecia”.
— SoyMotor.com (@SoyMotor) August 2, 2022
The Five Year Plan to Become a Power – Part Three. Why doesn’t it work again?
Szafnauer himself probably knows that Piastri is rather lost to Alpine. The American openly said in today’s interview that he sees no contraindications to returning to his team… by Daniel Ricciardo. In addition, the topic of the new plan for the next 100 races was discussed. Yes, another long-term plan that will likely backfire again.
Alpine is currently in organizational chaos, and the events of the past few days have made that very clear. Teaming up with Alonso over the last 10 races of the season will certainly be an interesting soap opera to watch from the sidelines, but I don’t want to be in the shoes of the team’s regulars right now – the atmosphere in the garage can really being fat. However, Alpine needs a complete shift in the way it manages and manages the development of the entire team, as happened some time ago at McLaren after the departure of Ron Dennis. Without thorough self-repair, follow-up plans, with the main goal of the championship, will no longer be accepted with appreciation, but with compassion and with an indulgent smile on the face. It’s worth noting that we’ve been hearing about it for seven (!) seasons from the people who first ran Renault, and now Alpine.