Ecurie Alpine F1

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Ecurie Alpine F1

1. Alpine in short

Alpine is a French automobile brand, founded in 1955 by Jean Rédélé in Dieppe in Normandy, and which is owned by the Renault group. Rédélé, a young man graduated from HEC and renowned for being the youngest dealer of the French brand at the time, distinguished himself at the wheel of a Renault 4CV during a rally race in the early 50s. Since its successes of yesteryear, the brand adorned with sky blue has invested more generally in motorsport, in Formula 1 in particular, where it took the place of Renault from 2021 under the nameAlpine F1 Team; as well as in Endurance, via Alpine Elf Endurance Team.

After having shone in rallying and Endurance, Alpine launched into F1 in 2021 / © DPPI

2. The story ofAlpine in Formula 1

Alpine F1 Team makes its debut in Formula 1 (FIA world championship) in 2021. The Renault group, owner ofAlpine, wishing to completely relaunch the brand with the A arrow, decided to rename its F1 team based in Enstone (in Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom) and in Viry Châtillon (in Essonne in France) in Alpine. A mainly marketing decision, also marked by a change in governance, both in the upper echelons with the arrival of Luca de Meo at the head of the group, and in sporting management (F1 and Alpine Cars) where Laurent Rossi arrived in place of Cyril Abiteboul, who previously held the position at Renault Sport.

Blue Alpine appears on the grid in 2021 / © DPPI

Despite losses estimated at 8 billion euros during the Covid period, Renault reaffirms its commitment to F1, driven by its “Renaulution” program and the resurrection of the brand Alpine for the sporty side.

Although the French manufacturer has been involved in Formula 1 since 1977, it has always raced in the discipline under the Renault name. However, it is under the impetus ofAlpine, on the strength of its success in endurance and rallying, that the French group's first single-seaters were developed. First in 1968, when theAlpine A350 was born and carried out a series of inconclusive tests with Mauro Bianchi in Zandvoort, then in 1976, with the support of Gordini. The following year, under the governance of Jean Sage, the brand's sports division was born: Renault Sport, which is none other than a merger of the brands. Alpine and Gordini.

Forty-four years later, Alpine F1 team is therefore making its big debut in Bahrain, during the first round of the 2021 Formula 1 season. The officialization of the rebranding of the Renault team in Alpine was announced in the heart of the previous summer, succinctly with the announcement of Fernando Alonso's return to the team. For the first year in its history in F1, Alpine relies on two well-known drivers: Fernando Alonso, double world champion with the team when it was still called Renault, in 2005 and 2006, and who was making his comeback after two years in Endurance, and Esteban Ocon , the French driver who was already with Renault the previous year. The Norman, however, had a blank season in 2019, after being suddenly replaced at Force India by a certain Lance Stroll, son of the new owner of the team.

For his first season in the discipline, Alpine F1 Team unveils a simple evolution of its predecessor, the Renault RS20, with theAlpine A521, in homage to the A500 developed by the brand with the A arrow in the 60s. During the presentation of the new single-seater, Luca de Meo took the opportunity to reaffirm his group's commitment to Formula 1, ensuring “be present in the long term” with the objective of reconnecting with its past successes.

Airside, Alpine F1 Team scores its first points at Imola (Italy) thanks to Esteban Ocon (9th) and Fernando Alonso (10th). The first victory came in the summer of 2021, on August 1, after only eleven races. Esteban Ocon from Normandy won the Hungarian Grand Prix after a race marked by a huge pile-up at the first corner, involving several drivers. The first success for Alpine in Formula 1, and the first victory of a French driver in a French car since… Alain Prost and Renault, during the 1983 Austrian Grand Prix. This is also the first victory for the French group since its return to Formula 1 in 2016 – since Fernando Alonso's victory, already, at the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix. During the summer, as part of its restructuring, Alpine announces the departure of Rémi Taffin, technical director and head of the engine department of the French team, by mutual agreement.

Esteban Ocon caused a sensation at the 2021 Hungarian GP by signing his first victory in F1 and the first success for Alpine in the premier category / © DPPI

Alpine F1 Team also made its mark at the end of the season during the Qatar Grand Prix, with Fernando Alonso's first podium in his new colors. For its first exercise under the name Alpine, the French team ranks fifth in the constructors' championship, behind McLaren but ahead of AlphaTauri.

At the end of 2021, Laurent Rossi, the CEO of the brand Alpine, announces that the team is giving itself 100 Grands Prix to play at the forefront, counting on the new 2022 regulations in order to catch up with the competition. The French leader also announces the departures of Marcin Budkowski, executive director, and Alain Prost, non-executive chairman. Director of the Aston Martin team, the American Otmar Szafnauer arrives to compensate for his departures and take the place of Davide Brivio. Bruno Famin is appointed executive director of the Viry-Châtillon factory, while Pat Fry is promoted to technical director. Titled in F2 and F3 in his first seasons, Oscar Piastri becomes the team's new reserve driver, after the departure of Guanyu Zhou for Alfa Romeo.

In 2022, the team is also rebadged BWT Alpine F1 team, with the arrival of BWT as title sponsor of the team. The team's A522 single-seater also becomes pink (BWT color) and blue (color Alpine), and even completely pink during the first two rounds of the season in Bahrain and Jeddah.

The Alpine A522 sported a full pink livery at the 2022 Bahrain and Saudi Arabian GPs to welcome the arrival of their new title sponsor BWT / © DPPI

While this new season is marked by the revolution in Formula 1, the emphasis is placed on the side ofAlpine on the engine and its reliability, according to his boss. The French team has the particularity of separating the turbo and the compressor, and has been able to gain weight between these last two generations of power units, in order to better get used to the temperature differences between the Grands Prix. From the opening round in Bahrain, Ocon and Alonso took advantage of the double retirement of the Red Bulls to both score points, with seventh and ninth place at the checkered flag. At the next meeting, in Jeddah, Esteban Ocon continued his momentum and climbed to sixth place, while the Spaniard experienced his first setbacks with his engine.

Despite all the potential seen during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, where Alonso seemed to be able to fight for pole position, the Spaniard experienced a hydraulic leak and finished the next day's Grand Prix in agony. The Norman, for his part, finished in the points for the third time in a row.

The weekends follow one another and are similar on the other hand for Fernando Alonso, who once again retires due to problems with his bodywork at Imola, while Ocon fails to climb into the top 10. The two single-seaters of the The French team continues to score points at each Grand Prix, all the way to Canada where Alonso achieves a feat by rising to second place at the end of qualifying. In the race, his pace is more delicate, the Spaniard only finished ninth, behind the leading teams. After two new top 5s in Great Britain and Austria, Alpine takes the lead in the constructors' championship against McLaren, its main opponent. Fourth place seems within their reach this time.

Fernando Alonso (Alpine) was invited to the front row at the 2022 Canadian GP / © DPPI

However, just before the summer break, the retirement of Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin led to the transfer of Fernando Alonso, against all expectations. The French team still hoped to extend it, he who had said he wanted to continue in F1 for a few more years despite his advanced age (41 years since July 29). The day after this announcement, the French team formalized the arrival of its young reserve driver, Oscar Piastri, alongside Esteban Ocon. But the Australian immediately denies any agreement with Alpine F1 Team, and refuses to commit. The case is expected to continue in court, as Piastri appears to have reached an agreement with McLaren ahead of next season.

3. The story ofAlpine in Endurance

Alpine has a long and rich history in Endurance, certainly. In the 50s, the duo Jean-Claude Galtier and Maurice Mich won the Mille Miglia on a Alpine A106, the first notable success of the team. At the beginning of the 60s, the team notably won, in its category, the 500 km of the Nürburgring and the 12 Hours of Reims twice, in 1963 and 1964, as well as victories in the energy index in 1964, 1966 and 1968 and performance in 1969 and 1969. But the main feat of arms of the French team took place fourteen years later, in 1978, when Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud won the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the wheel of the legendary Renault Alpine A442B.

Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud celebrate the victory ofAlpine at the 24 1978 Hours of Le Mans down the Champs Elysées / © DPPI

Forty years later, the French brand made its comeback in Endurance alongside the Bourges team, Signatech, and notably won the 3 Hours of Budapest in ELMS (European Le Mans Series), as well as the drivers' and manufacturers' titles in the championship in 2013. The following year, Alpine confirms its good form by winning the ELMS championship in the LMP2 category, with Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin and Oliver Webb in the seat. For its move to a higher category, namely the WEC (World Endurance Championship), the Oreca 05 (renowned Alpine A460) then the Oreca 07 (rebadged A470) give complete satisfaction. So much so that the French team will score two new successes, still in LMP2, in 2016 and 2019, without forgetting its three victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2016, 2018 and 2019).

Alpine wins his 3rd 24 Hours of Le Mans in 4 editions in 2019 / © DPPI

In 2021, the French team is entering the deep end of Hypercars, since the LMP2 category is reserved for private teams not producing production cars. But Alpine shows up with an LMP1, called A480. If it cannot yet compete with Toyota, which has a hybrid system that is too efficient, it can struggle against Glickenhaus, a lesser caliber team. If the season goes off without too many hiccups, the French team will still experience the joys of a podium during the 24 2021 Hours of Le Mans.

While a new Hypercar category will emerge in Endurance in 2023, with great brands on board, Alpine has decided to join the wagon in 2024. The French team will comply with the LMDh regulations, a less expensive alternative to the Le Mans Hypercar (LMH). If it will always trust Oreca for its monocoques and Signatech for its management after its two world titles in LMP2, Alpine intends to develop its own engine, in Viry-Châtillon, relying on the resources and know-how of the F1 compartment.

Alpine won at the 6 Hours of Monza 2022 / © DPPI

4. The story ofAlpine in Rally

Historically, Alpine is best known for its Berlinette and its 1973 rally epic. The brand with the A arrow has indeed won the title of world rally manufacturers' champion with its A110 1800, its Berlinette. Alpine was led by the four musketeers: Jean-Luc Thérier, Bernard Darniche, Jean-Claude Andruet and Jean-Pierre Nicolas. But its history in rallying began a few years earlier, on the national scene.

The Berlinette Alpine of Darniche at the 1973 Morocco Rally / © DPPI

A first success embellished the trophy room of the Dieppe brand, during the Lions rally in 1963, before the team reaped numerous victories during a year 1967 rich in events (Rallye du Mont-Blanc, Critérium des Cévennes, Neige et Glace and Lyon-Charbonnières, etc.). The following year was that of confirmation, for its cars now called Alpine-Renault and stamped with the diamond.

Factory drivers like Gérard Larousse (accompanied by Jean Todt as co-driver) or Jean-Claude Andruet joined the ranks of the team, who had a string of successes and even reached the final podium of the French championship with Larousse. The beginning of the 70s was a real turning point for the Dieppe team, which somewhat abandoned endurance and Formula 3 to compete with the top road teams. Alpine shines on the continental scene with successes in Acropolis or San Remo, in Corsica or by the title brought by Andruet to the European championship.

Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Claude Roure in action during the 1971 Monte-Carlo Rally / © DPPI

In 1971, the French brand will definitively establish itself in the world rally landscape, and in a very good way. During the Monte-Carlo Rally, the three cars entered by Alpine will sign a historic hat-trick, unheard of in the discipline. She even won the international championship of brands, the ancestor of the World championship that we know today.

After a more difficult year, Alpine back in 1973 and preparing to write one of the most beautiful pages in its history in motorsport. With the creation of the World Championship by the FIA, Alpine holds all the cards. Renault is also taking control of the majority of the brand's shares, and is preparing to approve theAlpine 1800, belonging to Group 4. The fatal weapon. She first distinguished herself with a new hat-trick in Monte-Carlo, her favorite playground, and won the world title after six new championship victories. A real achievement for the brand founded barely eighteen years earlier, which is ahead of major brands like Fiat and Ford.

Jean-Luc Thérier is crowned world rally champion, one point ahead of his teammate Alpine Jean-Pierre Nicolas / © DPPI

After having proven itself in rallying, Alpine decides to concentrate its resources on endurance with the objective of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. L'Alpine can adapt to all terrains. After a few gloomy years in rallying, the Berlinetta retired from rally roads, after having enjoyed a successful career.

5. Official drivers Alpine

In 2022, in Formula 1, Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso are the two BWT drivers Alpine F1 Team in Formula 1. The Norman driver is engaged with the French team until 2023, while the double Spanish world champion is preparing to leave Alpine for Aston Martin at the end of the season. The team's reserve driver is Oscar Piastri.

Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso will have made common cause at Alpine for two seasons / © DPPI

On the Endurance side, André Negrão, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Nicolas Lapierre are the three drivers entered with Alpine Elf Endurance Team in Endurance on behalf of the World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Matthieu Vaxiviere, André Negrão, and Nicolas Lapierre celebrate the victory ofAlpine at the 6 Hours of Monza 2022 / © DPPI

6. AUTOhebdo’s opinion on Alpine

Relaunched with great fanfare in 2017 for production vehicles and in 2020 for motor racing, Alpine is experiencing a second youth and unprecedented media exposure thanks to its Formula 1 and Endurance teams. In F1, the brand with the A arrow was able to win in its first official year in the discipline, while in Endurance, it was not unworthy despite the use of an LMP1 Rebellion in 2021 and 2022. Alpine has come back into fashion more than ever and its involvement in motorsport is not for nothing. To see if the Norman brand is capable of winning a title in Formula 1 and the 24 hours of Le Mans again. Why not also an upcoming entry in the WRC?