Alpine must fear quick turnaround: 'Only then will we make strides'

F1 News

Szafnauer on Alpine's problems
15 May at 21:02
  • Toby McLuskie

Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi is demanding rapid improvements in results, but quickly joining the top seems a pipe dream. The French team has dabbled for years, and Alpine is now paying the price for that. It is up to team boss Otmar Szafnauer to ensure the turnaround, but his hands are tied.

In the end, some satisfaction was evident. Not too much, as a team with ambitions can never be satisfied with an eighth and ninth position in a Grand Prix. Still, after two dramatic races in Australia and Azerbaijan, it was a boost for the team that for a long time saw itself ranked fourth in Formula 1, chafing against number three in the constructors' championship. However, a relieved Aston Martin has ensured that Alpine has to settle for the crumbs.

Alpine a long-term project

The proud French seems to be facing a considerable time in the shadow of Red Bull Racing, and even Ferrari, Mercedes and, consequently, Aston Martin as well. Whereas these teams are making significant strides by improving their facilities and workforce, Alpine is virtually at a standstill. McLaren, another team that should be scaled up to Alpine level, is about to commission a new wind tunnel. Aston Martin has modernised and expanded its factory. These are teams that are likely to reap the benefits of these investments. And Alpine? That has become a long-term project, but one whose leadership is now demanding results.

For instance, it is almost unimaginable in the F1 world, but the French have a completely dated simulator. "Our simulation tools are not state-of-the-art. Our simulator is 15 or maybe even 20 years old technology. It is the first simulator ever," Szafnauer told The Race recently. A new simulator has only recently been approved by Alpine management and it will probably take two years to install. In the meantime, a new head of simulation will also join the team.

Influential staff left

Moreover, quite a lot of knowledge has walked out the door in recent years. Alain Prost, for example, who was with Alpine for many years as a consultant, as well as technical director Nick Chester and head of aerodynamics Peter Machin (now AlphaTauri). There are also respected drivers under contract with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, but they are not top performers. There are already rumours that Alpine wants to bring back Carlos Sainz from Ferrari, as Ocon's replacement.

Alpine is negotiating with an American company to sell part of its shares. For Alpine, this would mean an equally welcome and necessary financial boost. With that money, further investment in the facilities could be made. Whether that will all come in time for a previously publicised Szafnauer plan to become a reality?

The hundred-race plan

Indeed, the American is working on the hundred-race plan. That means that since he took office last year, it should take a maximum of a hundred Grands Prix before Alpine is structurally competing for wins. Despite the current problems, Szafnauer is confident that this is realistic: "There are about 75 races [to go]. It's 3.5 years. And within those 3.5 years you get a new simulator, you get a new head of simulation, you get a new [software] system. Things are coming. When they are there, we are going to make steps."