Who will drive for Alpine in Formula 1?
The return of Fernando Alonso in 2021 was a big morale boost for the French team. The Spaniard returned to the team where he won the F1 world championship twice. Alongside Alonso, Esteban Ocon will take his place in the Alpine car in 2022.
Over the full season, Ocon was no match for Alonso, but during some race weekends he showed that he can compete with his teammate. Last year he managed to learn a lot from the Spaniard and in 2022 that should pay off. Ocon is keen to do better than Alonso.
The history of Alpine
For many years Renault was known for their traditional yellow car, but due to the name change the yellow colours disappeared in 2021. The 1.5 litre block of the Renault-Gordini V6 (including turbo) was the cream of the engine crop, but even then its reliability was lacking. Because of the yellow colours and the amount of smoke that regularly poured out of the car, Renault renamed the first car 'the yellow teapot'. It is an image that the racing team has still not got rid of.
By hiring Frenchman Alain Prost for the 1981 season, the tide began to turn for Renault. They started to win races and podiums, but the French team didn't finish higher than second place in the constructors' standings in 1983. It was also Prost's last year at Renault, but not without controversy.
Prost was of the opinion that Renault had not been able to get the most out of the car and constantly criticised his bosses. The cooperation reached a boiling point and Prost had to leave. In 1984, however, the Frenchman was back on the grid, only this time alongside Niki Lauda at the McLaren team.
Exit, return and exit
Where many smaller names eventually disappeared from Formula 1 because of money problems, it was Renault that couldn't keep its head above water anymore. The parent company had to save money, so having an expensive Formula 1 team was simply not possible.
One season, in 1986, Renault tried to save the day by stepping back and only supplying engines to teams on the grid. At the end of that year, that too was over and Renault disappeared from the premier class. Three years later, the French engines were back in Formula 1, but that was all. Until 2000.
In that year, the French bought the Benetton team and a year later they renamed it Benetton Renault Sport. One year later the name Benetton disappeared completely and the Renault F1 Team was back on the grid as it had been years before. The results were still not as good as in the glory years, but that changed.
The team signed Alonso in 2003 and had a fresh young driver on the team. That year, Renault finished fourth (with one win in Hungary) and a year later managed to take third place in the Constructors' standings. With Alonso driving, they took both the constructors' and drivers' titles from Ferrari and Michael Schumacher in 2005 and 2006, which also marked the end of Alonso’s first stint at the team. After two titles, Alonso called it a day and moved to McLaren.
A year later, Alonso returned, but Renault could not achieve the same results as in previous years. A constant change of drivers, as was the case in recent years, did not improve the situation either.
After it was revealed that Nelson Piquet junior had crashed on purpose at the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix (to give victory to Alonso), panic broke out within the team. The flamboyant team boss Flavio Briatore left the team, after which it was uncertain whether Renault would be allowed to stay in Formula 1 at all.
After that, they quickly went downhill. Sponsors headed for the exit and shares were sold. Eventually, only the Renault name was left on the car, but a year later this too disappeared and Renault were only present as an engine supplier.
Return to success
With the success of Red Bull Racing (and Renault's engine in the back of those cars) and financial problems at Lotus, Renault made the decision to return as a factory team in late 2016. With young Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, the French team began the agonisingly slow road back to the top. Three years and a lot of driver changes later, Renault was back at the top of the midfield and had two experienced drivers for 2019.
Under Cyril Abiteboul's leadership, Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg (aka The Hulk) had to take the next step: bridging the gap with the top three teams to have a shot at the title in 2021. From a dismal ninth place in 2016, a slightly better P6 in 2017 and 'best of the rest' P4 in 2018, Renault's upward trajectory was obvious. In 2021, however, it became clear that the step up to the top was still too big.
With the performances of Alonso and Ocon in recent years, there is hope at Alpine. The rule changes also offer hope for the team, making it quite possible that they can once again mix in with the top. However, it seems too much of a challenge for Red Bull and Mercedes to compete for the world title.
Alonso's experience, however, could play an important role. The Spaniard has been through a lot in his racing career and can provide the team with the right guidance to make great strides.
Which engine will Renault drive use Formula 1?
All the collaborations Renault had have expired. Red Bull Racing switched to Honda in 2019 and McLaren will again use the Mercedes engine. So Renault is the only team on the 2022 grid using the French engines. Renault's fuel supplier will also be BP/Castrol next season.