What’s going on at Alpine F1 Team? According to Renault President and CEO Luca De Meo, one thing is sure: it is not for sale despite rumours that have bubbled since the axe was wielded last month.
That axe meant the departure of team boss Otmar Szafnauer followed by long-time servant Alan Permane and technical director Pat Fry. In the hot seat for now is Bruno Famin, supposedly an interim solution amid the revolution at the French team.
Nevertheless, a development and reshuffle that makes little sense from the outside, with an even blurrier road map for the future, to turn Alpine into a front-running team again.
It’s been a largely disappointing 2023 F1 season for Esteban Ocon and newcomer to the team Pierre Gasly. The Alpine A523 is not kind to the cooling needed for the Renault E-Tech RE23 power units.
They overheat, and thus not ideal for fast tracks, such as Monza where they notched up their fifth no-points-scored race weekend. That was a week after Gasly scored a podium at the Dutch GP.
Knowing his cars would suffer at Monza De Meo gave Italy a miss and popped up at the Monaco Motor Show. There he was confronted with questions about the future of the Alpine F1 operation, including the possibility of a sale to Andretti Global or one of the consortiums seeking an entry into F1.
De Meo: We have to do a piece-by-piece recovery job
Speaking to reporters in Monaco, De Meo said: “I’m disappointed because we did badly in Monza, after a podium in Zandvoort but we are not where we should be at all. F1 is part of the Alpine project like endurance and other races, so we move forward and we have to grow.
“We have to do a piece-by-piece recovery job. And all those stories that I would like to sell the team are bullshit!” insisted the Renault big boss.
As for the firing of management heavy hitters, including team principal Szafanuer, after the Belgian GP, De Meo said: “They promised me things that were not kept. When you tell your boss something, then you have to do it. That’s the dynamics of a company.
“It seemed like a brutal action, and it was, but we are behind what we set ourselves as goals. Not that I forced them to set targets, but they set them themselves: they communicated them and this didn’t work because we didn’t have the right trajectory.”
The harsh reality check for Alpine is that they are a distant sixth
As for the future of the French team, De Meo stated: “I believe a lot in the Alpine F1 project but many times business people believe that F1 works in the same way. It’s like the entrepreneur who enters politics, I think politics doesn’t work like a business.
“And in the GPs to find the right alchemy, to do something like Red Bull or like Mercedes did for a long cycle, you have to keep working, you have to be humble, you have to change things. It’s a complicated game that then suddenly has to start spinning.
“You have to work on it, you can’t close the box and then talk about it again after five years. We are aware of this, we theoretically have the resources to do well with a team that is quite well-financed. And people who don’t work must leave the F1 system: this is high competition,” insisted De Meo.
The harsh reality check for Alpine is that they are a distant sixth in the 2023 F1 World Championship Constructors’ standings after 14 Rounds. On 73 points, they are 42 down on McLaren. Poor returns for a works team that should be further up the pecking order. Gasly and Ocon are P10 and P11 in the Drivers’ standings.