The recently named Alpine team has a rich history in Formula One including two world championship with Michael Schumacher 1994/5 and another two titles with Fernando Alonso in 2005/6. The great Ayrton Senna debuted in the sport in a previous incarnation of the Enstone based team which entered F1 as Toleman in 1981.
Most famously Senna claimed Toleman’s best finish when in a wet Monaco in 1984 he finished a close second behind Alain Prost in the McLaren MP4/2. However many believe Senna and Toleman were robbed of a victory because the clerk of the course Jackie Ickx, a friend of Prost, decided it was too wet and red flagged the race after 31 of the 78 scheduled laps.
Renault’s F1 racing roots
The McLaren had been struggling with brake issues and Senna was catching quickly when Ickx declared the race over, which is why Tolemen felt hard done by.
The team was bought by Benetton for the 1986 season and ran as a constructor until 2021. They partnered with Michael Schumacher for his first two F1 titles though were often involved in controversy.
Renault acquired the team and delivered success with Fernando Alonso before being sold to become Lotus in 2012 before Renault reacquired the Enstone outfit in 2016.
The latest iteration was to see the team renamed Alpine in an effort to promote the sports brand off Renault’s road car division.
Alpine F1 brand makes no sense
However the Alpine A110 was launched in 2020 and sold just 2020 cars in 2021 which grew by 132% but the latest figures for 2022 reveal Alpine have delivered just 3546 road cars worldwide. The majority of their cars were sold in France.
Unlike Ferrari the Alpine road cars are sold at a price point around a quarter of the Italian marques average who sell over 7000 units worldwide each year. At some point the vast investment in the Alpine F1 team will be viewed as pointlessly expensive of the results it delivers.
Alpine F1 have been the subject of controversy for over a year now. They announced their academy driver would be stepping up to join Esteban Ocon in the F1 team for this year, however within 90 minutes Oscar Piastri denied this because he was signed for McLaren.
The weekend before the summer break the Renault board decided to sack the team principal and their Sporting Director Alan Parmaine who has been at entwine throughout their travails for 32 years.
Renault investment yielding no results
The F1 team is failing in its 100 race objective to be winning races and championships given it has made a huge retrograde step this season.
Last year Alpine and McLaren were locked in a battle for fourth in the championship but with ten races to go the French owned team is now 45 points behind their main rivals having scored just 57 points in 12 races to date.
Despite the considerable investment since Renault required the Enstone team the results a sparse and paddock sources now believe there is a significant probability the French owned team will be sold.
Renault had their most significant period of F1 success when partnering with Red Bull as a engine supplier winning four consecutive constructor’s and driver championships between 2010-13.
Corporations running F1 teams fail
They are committed to delivering the new 2026 power train though big questions now arise whether this will be with a works owned racing team.
Ex-F1 driver and Sky F1 presenter Karen Chinook believes the Alpine team is currently in a deep crisis.
“The reality is that they are the sixth best team on the grid with the sixth fastest car, but they are the third largest global brand [as Renault] in the automotive world. Your results are not good enough. My concern is if they are going to continue with managers who come from outside the world of motorsport and Formula 1”, said Chandhok.
Renault have appointed an interim team manager in Bruno Famini who has no previous Formula One experience and neither did his predecessor Laurent Rossi who was regularly publicly critical of his team’s efforts.
Renault F1 future in question
“If you look at the people who are in some departments of Enstone, they have been signed up from the road car division. Perhaps now you are asking the question that the Renault corporation The same thing happened to Toyota 20 years ago.
“They are going down a path where they can throw in the towel with Formula 1 or they are going down a corporate path that I am convinced is not going to work.”
Toyoto and Jaguar attempted to run F1 teams with corporate managers and a corporate structure and one exited the sport completely while the other was bought by the energy drinks company Red Bull.
Red Bull refused corporate partner
Interestingly Red Bull recently rejected a proposed partnership with Porsche for the new 2026 power unit era because they believed their corporate decision making process was incompatible with the team and the requirements of Formula One competition.
Renault will not continue to invest its global brand’s reputation in Formula One given its present ability to compete somewhere near the front. Promoting a small number of road car sales in a relatively inexpensive sportscar does not make corporate sense and the inevitable decision to leave the sport will come sooner if not later.
Alpine F1 recruitment too late?
Alpine has now begun a restructuring process with Matt Harman replacing the legendary Pat Fry in the technical team and additional names yet to be announced. The problem is that good people in F1 often are on a one year notice period and potentially with a garden leave period beyond that.
It could be by the time the new faces arrive and have a year to impact the team’s progress, Alpine F1 will be no more.
“Three great figures have left. Alan Permane had been there for more than 33 years and Pat Fry seems to have left on his own, no one has thrown him out. He is a great signing for Williams and at Alpine I think there is a lack of direction For me, they have fired important people in the operational aspect and from within the track, So I think you already know where your problems are“, concluded Chandhok.
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