Column | Hamilton battle shows Alpine is ready

06-08-2021 07:00 | Updated: 06-08-2021 10:14
Column
Column | Hamilton battle shows Alpine is ready

The French F1 team has performed strongly in the Hungarian Grand Prix, but has faced some doubts over their lineup and their current season overall. Here's why they'll pose a threat to their opponents in 2022.

Lineup

Esteban Ocon had a difficult 2020, coming back to the sport after one and half years of sitting on the sideline. Facing his greatly experienced teammate in Ricciardo, he was outscored and out-qualified 15 to 2, which led to some paddock talk of Pierre Gasly taking his seat in the time. However, he was still able to claim a podium from last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix and has built on this to bring in good momentum into this season, granting him a three-year contract extension from his team. 


Some questioned the signing of Fernando Alonso, with some drawing conclusions that it was simply a headline-grabbing move. A veteran returning to the team of their most success simply seemed like an unorthodox decision, also considering the talent housed in the Renault Academy. Most assumed that due to his age and the lack of immediate win contending capabilities of the car, that this was a less than ideal move from both parties. However, this year has proved otherwise, with Alonso shaking off the rust after his retirement in 2018 and beginning to show strong performances, drawing likeness to the fighter of old as we know him.


Now, after the Hungarian Grand Prix, both have extensively proved themselves to be potent forces in the fight this year. Ocon held his position for over 60 laps in the Grand Prix, fending off four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. Alonso greatly assisted, holding back the charging Hamilton for several laps with robust defensive moves, enough to ensure that his teammate’s victory was not disrupted. He was even recorded to be gaining 2.5 seconds a lap on Ocon before his titanic battle with the reigning champion. Machinery may hinder them occasionally, but both have the required skill, teamwork and desire to bring the Enstone team to the front of the field. 


Management

CEO Luca De Meo had several plans for Renault in 2020-2021 and into the future. It was announced that the Renault brand would be replaced with Alpine, to provide greater brand focus and organisation to the racing division of the Renault group. Management structures also came into place with long-serving team principal Cyril Abiteboul bowing out of the team. This role remained unfilled and instead, the tasks were to be divided between two heads for the F1 team. Title-winning MotoGP boss Davide Brivio was recruited as “racing director”, while Marcin Budkowski was brought to a twin role of “executive director”. 


Most teams usually operate under a single team principal, which helps organise tasks and generates a more linear business communication process. Thus, some expressed concerns at having two “team principals” and how information and decisions would be separated amongst the two. It seems that Brivio handles more driver-related concerns and feedback, whereas Budkowski manages the more business and development aspect. Both report back to the CEO and frequently communicate to ensure that organisation is kept properly. As of now, there are no visible or reported concerns with these changes.


Future

The change to Alpine brought many benefits, as it also brought greater synergy between the different branches of Renault-Alpine, as they now draw their WEC and F1 teams under the same umbrella. This allows for significant benefits such as a widely recognisable label, as well as a unified brand to market on the racing scene. The management changes were probably a cause for a lot of deliberation. The decision likely came into place a year before the regulation changes to ensure that everything can work smoothly, without having to disrupt their activities too severely.


For Alpine F1 specifically, they have targeted a new beginning for 2022 from as far back as 2018. They have been dedicated to pushing to the front with the overhaul, and spent all this time garnering knowledge as to how they should best approach the changes. Both drivers also seem to be on top of their form, ready to perform strongly week-in and week-out. Now with the management in place, as well as two drivers committed for the long term, the Alpine F1 team looks ready for the future.

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