Alpine started 2023 with what seemed like relatively standard objectives, hardly enough to create any pressure or excitement in F1 news headlines before pre-season. Consolidating fourth place was the aim outlined by Otmar Szafnauer and CEO Laurent Rossi, showing no rush to fight at the front.
Yet somehow, the French squad has fallen flat of keeping the status quo – finding itself pushed further down the order.
Aston Martin made phenomenal progress over the winter break, and McLaren has introduced a series of mid-season upgrades to establish themselves as regular podium contenders.
Meanwhile, Alpine has stood still. The gap to Red Bull is not too dissimilar from last season, but the progress made by rivals has put unprecedented scrutiny on the Enstone team’s stagnation.
Laurent Rossi’s fiery comments after a slow start created the first wave of controversy surrounding the team, although nothing could prepare fans or F1 news outlets for what unfolded last week.
In an effort to reset the team, Otmar Szafnauer and Alan Permane have been dismissed – signalling another phase of instability for the engine manufacturer.
Speaking in an interview with Viaplay, former Alpine team principal Marcin Budkowski has outlined the fundamental issue holding Enstone back:
“I will say, in general, that Alain [Prost] and I often see things in a very similar way, so when Alain says something, I generally agree with that,” he is quoted as saying by pitdebrief.com.
“I had a chat with Alain yesterday, just after I found out about the changes, so we talked yesterday morning. I read the article in the press with curiosity.
“Unfortunately, it’s not often talked about, but the main problem with Renault’s involvement in Formula 1 was that the ambitions were always very high, and the financial means were not adequate.
“Every year there were higher and higher ambitions, and every year, unfortunately, the resources that were put into it were not…
“Let’s say we were not at the level of those ambitions. But these are the things, let’s say… that people at the Renault board didn’t always want to hear.”
Christian Horner has previously made similar comments about Renault’s investment, describing the French group as “wanting first class, but only prepared to pay economy.”
The situation on track is not desperate for Alpine, who (despite being unlikely to finish above 6th this year) have seen other teams demonstrate that rapid development is feasible.
The issue is not so much that climbing the field is impossible, but instead that – for approaching a decade now – the French entrant has proven itself incapable of doing so.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang