Alpine Is Trying, It Really Is, to Win in Formula 1

It has been a terrible start to the season for the BWT Alpine F1 Team.

Alpine has not scored a point and has been uncompetitive at every Grand Prix, consistently finishing at the bottom of the pack.

“Unfortunately the car isn’t well born, and it’s just what it is,” Pierre Gasly, one of the team’s drivers, said at the Australian Grand Prix in late March.

It is the lowest point for a team that has underperformed for years.

Alpine, rebranded in 2021 from Renault’s Formula 1 team, had a good showing the next year, finishing fourth in the championship. It fell to sixth in 2023, with 120 points, down from 173 in 2022, and now sits at ninth. The team’s highest finish this year was 11th, in China.

Alpine had a management shake-up in 2023, and Bruno Famin, previously the executive director of Alpine’s engine division, became the new team principal.

“My first impression when I joined the team was that we needed to make some quite big changes to make the team work better,” he said in an interview in April.

Alpine’s new A524 car — the development of which began before Famin’s appointment — was completely redesigned. Among major architectural changes was a new rear suspension; a more intricate floor design, a part of the car crucial for lap times; and a revised front wing. At the car’s introduction in February, Alpine said just the steering wheel was retained from the previous car.

Bruno Famin, the team principal, said Alpine continues to make adjustmesnt. “We keep working on the car, to develop it, and I think it’s very important,” he said.Credit…Qian Jun/MB Media, via Getty Images

Because the team’s computer modeling during the off-season didn’t show the car performing well, Alpine played down expectations, but the opening race in Bahrain still came as a shock to the team.

Gasly and Alpine’s other driver, Esteban Ocon, qualified 19th and 20th and finished 17th and 18th in the race.

“It was not easy to see both cars on the last row of the grid in Bahrain,” Famin said.

Matt Harman, the technical director, and Dirk de Beer, the head of aerodynamics, announced their resignations after the race, with their duties turned over to a three-person team. Alpine has invested in new dynos, which constantly evaluate the performance of the engine, at its facility in Viry-Châtillon, France, and a new simulator will be ready at its chassis base in Enstone, England, within the next year.

“I think we have very good people, very skilled people,” Famin said. “We need to make sure that we can make the best use of all their skills, all their creativity, and we needed to adapt the team structure for developing that, for making the team more agile, more efficient. In both sides [chassis and engine] we need to be more efficient to make a better use of our resources.”

Alpine’s car development program recently fast-tracked a new floor onto Ocon’s car at the previous race in China, which will be on both cars in Miami this weekend. Such progress, including trimming an overweight car, is desperately needed.

“At the moment we’re clearly at the back of that second league,” Gasly said after the race in Japan about the teams battling in the lower half of the grid. “But every single tenth [of a second] we can get as soon as possible will make a difference at the end of the year.”

Rebuilding takes time, and any lessons Alpine learns aids the process.

“We keep working on the car, to develop it, and I think it’s very important,” Famin said. “We need to use this car to improve the way of working, to improve all those processes, and this management [structure], in order to be on the right direction, and on the right path for the ’26 development, which will be the major milestone.”

That’s when Formula 1 plans to introduce new technical regulations. There will be big changes to the engine regulations and to the aerodynamic rules. Teams can only begin work on the 2026 car in January 2025.

“A change in the regulations is always an opportunity to change the game,” Famin said. “The car is going to be very different from what we know today. And it’s a big opportunity.”

The contracts of Ocon, 27, and Gasly, 28, expire at the end of this season. They are not old, but have been spending their prime years struggling at the back of the grid, particularly given the improbability of large performance gains arriving soon.

“The thing I care the most at the moment for me is to be in a competitive car, and I want that competitive car with Alpine as that’s what I signed up for two years ago,” Gasly said. “I still believe at the moment there is something unfortunate with that car that went wrong, which explains why we’re in this situation, but with the infrastructure and technical staff, I know they have the resources to be back up there. The situation is not great, because I’m here in F1 to perform, no one’s enjoying the situation we’re in, fighting at the back.”

Ocon has a relationship with Alpine, then called Lotus, that stretches from 2014, when he was a test driver, and has raced for the team since 2020.

“It’s been difficult for sure to recalibrate the targets, what we wanted to achieve,” Ocon said. “But what’s important is to do the best of what we have. We’ve changed a lot of approaches for this year, with my side of the garage, and the way we’re working at the moment is very good, we’re happy with the races we’ve done, and I’m happy with my approach and the work I’m doing with the team. The most important [thing] always is how you perform on track — the [contract] talks always come with that.”

Famin expressed sympathy that “the position of the driver is not easy because if we are disappointed, they are even more disappointed with where we are,” but praised their constructive attitudes.

Alpine is suffering short-term pain, but Famin said he believed the plunge in performance, and consequent rethinking, was necessary for its long-term ambition.

“The team has had some ups and downs — once it was fourth, then fifth or sixth etc., we were a bit in the middle,” Famin said. “And if we have not been able to make the last step to really fight ahead it is because we have not made the necessary changes.”

“The one who doesn’t move, goes backwards. And we need to move forward.”

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