HomeNewsAston Martin rise is a 'reality check' for Alpine, says team boss...

Aston Martin rise is a ‘reality check’ for Alpine, says team boss Laurent Rossi

Alpine boss Laurent Rossi (third from the left) talks to driver Esteban Ocon
Alpine are currently fifth in the constructors’ championship

Alpine boss Laurent Rossi says Aston Martin’s leap up the grid this year has been a “reality check” for his team.

But he admitted Aston Martin’s leap from seventh last year to second in 2023 has changed perceptions of what is possible.

“It was a reality check for Mercedes, Ferrari, us,” Rossi said.

“We were comfortable thinking we were on the rise, and everyone else was, and suddenly there is a guy leapfrogging all of us.”

Aston Martin’s step forward – caused by a major design advance with their car and strong performances by Fernando Alonso, who transferred from Alpine over the winter – looks to have already made it impossible for Alpine to reach their stated target for this season.

They said they wanted to finish fourth again, but move closer to the top three teams.

Instead, after eight races, Alpine are fifth in the constructors’ championship, while Aston Martin are second, and Alonso third in the drivers’ title chase. Alpine drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly are ninth and 10th.

Fernando Alonso celebrates finishing second in Canada
Former Alpine driver Fernando Alonso, who now drives for Aston Martin, has been on the podium six times this season

Beyond that, Rossi said Aston Martin’s rapid progress has made Alpine question the methodology by which they were hoping to move slowly towards the front.

He announced a “100-race plan” to do so in 2021, effectively setting 2024 or early 2025 as the target to make it.

Rossi said: “It’s an industry that has been doing more or less the same thing for so long that it’s become a norm that it takes that much time to get there. It’s true for everything. It’s true for road cars.

“We are trying to change things here. But for that you need to put yourself in a bit of a tricky situation, an uncomfortable situation. If you do that, it works.

“I guess they’ve done it in a more radical way, put themselves in a more uncomfortable situation, to break some barriers, to change a little bit the way they were doing it.”

Rossi said Alpine had begun to question why certain tasks – such as the time it takes to bring upgraded parts to the car – took as long as they did.

“We can probably accelerate things we thought would be taking seven weeks, three months,” he said. “Now we look at it and say: ‘Seven weeks – perhaps it’s four; three months – perhaps it’s two.

“What do we have to believe to get there? People start scratching their heads a bit more thinking: ‘Maybe we are being a bit too conservative here, maybe we are doing too many validations, maybe we can shorten the process here and there.’

“You realise that over time you have built so many extra cautious steps because you addressed a problem one day and said to yourself: ‘OK, next time we do this all the time.’

“And now you look at it and you are like, with hindsight, maybe this is not necessary anymore.”

Rossi said part of the the investment by three separate North American financial groups announced on Monday would be used to pay off debt Alpine owed to parent company Renault “and the rest will be invested in the team and the brand”.

The new shareholders were announced at the same time as Alpine – Renault’s sporting sub-brand – revealed plans for a greatly expanded road-car line-up over the next seven years, and going all-electric by 2026, with the aim of significantly expanding their global market share.

The F1 team is a halo project for the entire Alpine brand, and their slow start to the season, including a series of operational and reliability issues in the opening four races, led to criticism from the boss.

Last month, Rossi accused the team of “dilettantism” and said the team had a “performance deficit and an execution deficit”.

Now, he says: “Being fifth right now in and of itself can be very different – you can be unlucky and have three podiums and whatever.

“Being fifth the way we did it, by making a couple of mistakes here and there – and it’s all across the value chain from [the chassis base at] Enstone to [the engine factory at] Viry to the track was not good. That’s what I didn’t like.

“I didn’t like the fact that a team that has been so good operationally for the past two years suddenly started not to perform at the same level.

“And so they corrected a lot of the things. It is going back into the right direction. It goes back to the plan we had.”

He admitted that the team might have to extend by a year the target date for them to get to the very front of the field – and said he wanted to do it by the end of the current rules set in F1, before a major regulation change in 2026.

“Whether it is year three [of the plan] or whatever,” Rossi said, “it might be 120 [races before we achieve it] because the [regulatory] era has been extended by one year and we go until 2025.

“My goal is by 2025 the Alpine F1 team has the same means as the top teams and is operating in a way that they can put those means to work to become a credible contender for the podium. That’s it.

“And we are still going in that direction. We are still hiring, getting equipment and resources and this investment will help us go even faster. That’s why I feel we are still on track.”

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