Alonso’s ambition, Alpine’s restraint

Fernando Alonso, with the Alpine car, in a training session at the Sakhir circuit, in Bahrain, on March 14.

Fernando Alonso and Renault announced on July 8 of last year the agreement that specified the return to Formula 1 of the Asturian after two seasons far from his comfort zone, in which he put his ability in other disciplines such as endurance and racing to the test. Dakar. Renault sheltered its communication plan from the memory of the two titles that appear in the Spanish service sheet (2005 and 2006), the only ones that the diamond brand has celebrated as a factory team. “I have principles and ambitions that fit with the Renault project,” said Alonso, who will turn 40 in July. Since that Wednesday, eight and a half months have passed in which the French company has literally turned upside down.

The landing of Luca de Meo as general director of the entire conglomerate, made official the week before the announcement of the Oviedo, triggered a flurry of changes in all the branches of the group. Among them, that of F-1 was also affected. From the outset, the Italian renamed the team as Alpine, in his eagerness to re-establish that sports label from the sixties, abandoned and died of grief practically since then. This was followed by a series of hires and layoffs at the top of the competition structure that, a few hours before the start of the championship, this Sunday in Bahrain, are still defining their roles in a very particular organization, almost unique, within the paddock.

Since the departure of Cyril Abiteboul in January, Alpine has not had a director. The executive and operational functions are shared by Marcin Budkowski, who commands from the Enstone (Great Britain) and Viry-Chatillon (France) headquarters, and Davide Brivio, whose responsibility is the operation of all the gear displaced to the races. The signing of the latter, from the Suzuki team that in 2020 was proclaimed MotoGP world champion, with Joan Mir, is a direct wish of Meo, and has created the odd itch within the organization chart of the brand.

In a phase as transcendental as the one that the F-1 is going through, with the implementation of a budget limit and the revolution in technical regulations that will be applied in 2022, it does not seem the best time to start doing experiments. And much less if, as several indications suggest, there is an obvious delay in the projection of next year’s car, something that Alonso is not digesting too well.

The development of single-seaters is always well ahead of what happens on the track. Mercedes stopped evolving its W11 before the middle of last year, to focus its efforts on the W12. Mattia Binotto, the head of Ferrari, has already advanced in the presentation of the Scuderia that the SF21 would not be revitalized too much throughout this 2021 so as not to miss the train of the coming year, which will be the one that will open the new cycle, and who knows if also the alternatives. And the same goes for Red Bull, which already has Adrian Newey, its wizard of aerodynamics, looking for where to attack with his strokes.

Between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas they added for The Silver Arrows 13 victories of the 17 that were put into play in 2020, 76.5% of the global. The two of Max Verstappen (Silverstone and Abu Dhabi) give Red Bull 11.7%, the same percentage that corresponds to the other two wins, Pierre Gasly (Monza) and Checo Pérez (Bahrain). Alonso has already said that his aspiration in 2021 is to fight to get on the box as many times as he can. Between Mercedes and Red Bull they took 37 of the 51 total podium places, and the remaining 14 were shared between Racing Point (four), Renault (three), Ferrari (three), McLaren (three) and Alpha Tauri (one). The regulatory stability inherited from the last year predicts a very similar scenario to that of then.

De Meo acknowledged this week that Alpine’s commitment to F1 is written in stone. “As long as I am in this position, our people have nothing to fear. They simply have to work to create a profitable business model, win races and create a good image for the company, ”said the Italian. As easy to say as it is difficult to do. Its definition perfectly reflects the pattern it seeks to replicate, even though there are two opposing concepts in it. When you compete against Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, you will hardly win if the mainstay of your policy is balancing expenses with income.

Until last year, when the incorporation of the spending limit with a view to 2021 (122 million euros per team) was confirmed, Renault did not renew its commitment to the championship. The nearly 380 million euros of budget that Mercedes injected into its F-1 department in 2019 were seen as a real waste impossible to justify. But the regulations of the new economic framework make the circus in a much more appealing showcase as a marketing tool. That is precisely what De Meo is pursuing, the harmony between the investment made and the return it entails. This is a very logical strategy on a commercial level, but it will hardly allow Alonso to win his third crown before his contract expires (2022), when he will have already reached 41 years of age.

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