Alpine’s win at the Hungary GP may have come as a surprise to some but for the French team this has been a result of consistent hard work and above all teamwork. Not only has Alpine been working together as a whole this season, both drivers Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso have played key roles to the team’s success this season as well. The team's progress so far for the 2021 season has left Alpine’s CEO Laurent Rossi feeling hopeful for the 2022 season and for the future of the Alpine team moving forward.
One key aspect of Alpine’s teamwork is the sharing of information between the engineers on both sides of the team. Laurent Rossi goes into detail about the teamwork in an interview before Ocon's shock win with F1.com:
“On the other hand, I have reason to be optimistic. The team is working way more as a team than it looked like last year. I can see a lot of cooperation between the two sides of the garage. Every single race, every single session, I can hear engineers trading tips on why Fernando or Esteban went faster in this corner or that one. It’s made easier by the fact these two are more often than not setting out on a similar setting so we can share most of that setting from one car to another. That’s nice, as the dynamic is good.
In addition to all the data the Alpine team collects in the garage, on track both drivers are outqualifying their cars frequently according to Rossi and the team's hard work is really starting to show every race weekend.
“On track, we’re building our weekends much better. Both drivers have outqualified the car quite often, as in it has qualified much better than its natural pace, and that is testimony of the good work here. We are leveraging every single driver of performance that is left outside of the car itself. Drivers are put in optimum conditions, they are confident and the team is listening to the feedback. All of this is a good basis for the future and makes me quite optimistic for the day we have a faster car.”
The Alpine team is also looking ahead to the new technological rules that will take effect for the 2022 season as an opportunity and fresh starting point. Rossi also states that they have a similar structure and talent to the other teams:
“We have been carrying hefty heritage in terms of technical choices we made and we cannot catch up,” he adds. “We need to get it right from the get-go because then we have all it takes, more or less, to be successful. We’re not dramatically different from others. Obviously there are departments where we are stronger than others, departments where we are relatively weaker. But we have a similar structure, arguably similar talents.
“For 2022, we start from a good base and we have the capacity to systematically, continuously improve the performance from one race to another. That’s the most important thing. Next year, we’re going to see if we are well equipped to do so. I think we are.”
When it comes to a team's overall success it's crucial to have both drivers on the team delivering similar results and performing on the same level. For the Alpine team they not only have two very capable drivers, they seem to have found a good balance between a seasoned and skilled driver in Fernando Alonso and a younger talented and motivated driver in Esteban Ocon.
“Everyone – and I have to say, including me – were wondering where he would be [when he returned],” said Rossi. “It was more of a case of ‘let’s see’. The first six races, people had doubt, but we internally didn’t. Before the first race, we didn’t know where he is going to be but as soon as we saw him in Bahrain, we were knew it was going to be okay. It felt like he had last raced in December, because he has lost nothing of his talent or his sharpness and we knew it was only a matter of races until he found his way back. He’s very strong and I am super happy.”
Fernando Alonso’s talent, extensive knowledge, and experience is only a part of what helps guide the Alpine team. It’s Alonso’s passion, dedication and overall presence that is a huge motivating factor for the team. Laurent Rossi talks about what Fernando Alonso is like with the team:
“Fernando is a double time world champion who should be already at five or six titles in different conditions. You want to be on par with him as you know he is going to be requesting excellence. He will double click on every choice but in a very good way.
“He never dismisses people, he is just asking for the sake of making progress. If you’re on the receiving end, very rarely do you feel like he’s criticising you. It’s just he wants to go a bit further and analyse if there is no other alternative. He is pushing so hard that it elevates the performance of the whole team. People want to be on par with that and they just overdeliver all the time.”
On the other side of the Alpine team is a younger Esteban Ocon who is motivated and driven with everything to prove on track in F1. Ocon not only secured the team's first win and made history for the Alpine team, he is also shaping the team's success like his teammate Fernando Alonso. Since Ocon has been with the team when it was Renault and before Alpine took over, he has faced many challenges but had not let that get in his way. Ocon’s ability to adapt and stay resilient throughout the season has been a huge benefit for the team. Laurent Rossi discusses his ability to bounce back:
“Once we changed the full chassis for Silverstone, we realised that there were parts that were not operating properly,” says Rossi. “There were two or three-tenths that were missing compared to the rest. This year, that is a big gap. Two-tenths were in the car, one-tenth was in his head trying to work out what was going on – if it was him or the car. As soon as you give him a car like he used to have, the performance is exactly the same as he used to deliver. He’s back exactly where we left him.”
Looking into the future of Alpine, Laurent Rossi is pleased with the talent pool of drivers that are interested in the team at the moment. Although Esteban Ocon is tied with the team until 2024 and Fernando Alonso will remain with the team till the end of 2022, Rossi credits the work of the Alpine Academy director Mia Sharizman for the high number of drivers who want to be part of the Alpine family and its future.
“I have a rich man’s problem,” he says. “The yield of the Academy is high. It’s a testimony to the work done by Mia [Sharizman, Alpine Academy Director]. I don’t think they were expecting that number of drivers would come knocking at the door at the same time, which is good, but it’s a problem, as we now need to ensure a good outcome for these drivers, who are part of the Alpine family.