Having raced with the big boys during the 2022 season, Alpine have been the most disappointing Formula One team this year. At the start of the 2021 season the team’s CEO Laurent Rossi set them a target of 100 races to be competing at the front for “race wins and championships.
By the end of this year the Alpine team will be 66 races into that programme and given their current form they are going to miss their target by a considerable margin.
Alpine F1 in disarray
At the start of this season team principal Otmar Szafnaeur argued were the team able to retain their fourth place from 2022 but be closer to the team in third, this would represent progress towards the 100 race vision.
Laurent Rossi disagreed and launched a scathing attack on the team’s progress in Miami. Since then the Renault corporate superiors decided both Rossi and Szafnaeur had to go replacing their CEO with Bruno Famini.
It was clear from his explanation as to why Szafnaeur was sacked, the Romanian-American did not believe the Alpine 100 race target was realistic in part due to the recruitment timeline the team were waiting to bring on board new expertise.
The 100 race plan now appears to be in tatters as Alpine languish down in sixth this season with just 57 points and despite their current 46 point deficit to the French owned outfit, Williams form at present could see them close this gap substantially before the year is out.
Renault appeal to FIA for exemption
Alpine again failed to get either of their cars into Q3 this weekend in Zandvoort and Esteban icon with a seasons best result of third even failed to make it out of the first qualifying session.
Meanwhile Williams performance was memorable with both drivers making into the pole shootout for the first time in living memory and it was Logan Sargents first ever appearance in that qualifying session too.
Alex Albon briefly held third place for the Grand Prix start before a Stella lap from Mercedes’ George Russell pipped him to a top three position, yet a grid slot of P4 for the Williams team is beyond anyone’s expectations.
In an attempt to turn around their fortunes, Alpine have attempted to appeal to the FIA to be allowed to improve their power unit claiming it is 30BHP down on their competition.
Renault power unit “ambitious” design
The development of the current F1 power units was frozen by the FIA from 2022 to the end of 2025 due to the delay in introducing the nest generation of Formula One engines. The teams are allowed to revise their designs but for reliability purposes only and not to improve performance.
Alpine tried to ox clever prior to the engine freeze and selected a design with a split turbo design which they believed would be more powerful than the competition but they knew would initially be less reliable.
As it turned out, they have not been able to optimise their split turbo power unit and are now looking at other ways to improve their performance.
The French F1 team’s request to be allowed to up their power output is unusual because it relies on a clause in the new power unit design rules where a team falling behind can demonstrate their performance deficit is more than 3% of the others will be allowed more dyno time to improve their power unit.
Ferrari and Wolff block Alpine FIA appeal
However, Ferrari have objected to the Alpine application and their team boss Fred Vasseur claims exceptional circumstances should be allowed only for manufacturers who were “completely out of range” but he was “not sure that Renault is so far away”.
Mercedes’ Toto Wolff agrees with Ferrari in that their engine deficit is below the 3% threshold specified.
“How we designed the regulations was that for 2026, if one of the constructors would fall outside of 3% to the best power unit, we would allow them to have more dyno time and we would act in best faith and find regulations,” explained Toto.
“Now, we’re not talking 2026, but we’re mid into those regulations and it’s true it’s frozen. But Fred is absolutely right, we don’t see anything close to 3%.”
Wolff “cannot make rules up on the fly”
Alpine with their single podium this year from Esteban icon at the outlier circuit that is Monaco, clearly have desperate problems but Wolff has no sympathy and claims “Renault need to sort it out” without resorting to bending the rules.
“We cannot make up regulations on the fly just because someone doesn’t perform. Therefore, if you’re going to change them for the next cycle, then fine, but I think that with 3% we are in a good place and certainly not fiddle with the PU or give them more fuel flow or any of these things,” said the Mercedes’ boss dispassionately.
Mercedes of course have their own troubles. Not only are they way behind Red Bull but have suffered the ignominy this year of being beaten handsomely by their customer teams Aston Martin and now McLaren.
“Work yourself out, the same would be for us, I might be biting my tongue in three years. Work yourself out, you’re getting more dyno time and sort it out,” included Wolff.
Should Alpine sell to Andretti?
Alpine’s recent appeal to the F1 commission in Belgium for more leeway to develop their power unit was then out by other teams
Renault have a rich history in Formula One most recently winning four double world titles with Red Bull form 2010-13. Yet the French team appear to have performed well when their motorsports division is given free reign and run independently from the global corporate monster that manages their road car manufacturing.
With Andretti motorsport desperate to join the F1 circus it has been suggested Renault should sell their Enstone based operations to the Americans and concentrate purely on their power unit design.
By mid-2025, Alpine-Renault will have reached their 100 race timeline and based upon their current progress they will fall miles short of their expectations which could see them revise their level of participation in Formula One.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 26, 2023