Although the team changed its name before the start of the season, going from Renault to Alpine, the single-seater created by Enstone was in continuity with that of previous seasons, the French team having approached 2021 as a year of transition before the big changes that will take place in 2022.
Daniel Ricciardo left for McLaren, Alpine has bet on the return of Fernando Alonso, double world champion with the team in 2005 and 2006. At his side, Esteban Ocon will be there for the second consecutive year. After fighting for third place in the championship in 2020 and obtaining several podiums, the French team will hope to experience a similar year in 2021 in terms of results.
From the first races, the Alpine A521 appeared to be a single-seater a little too slow to fight against the McLarens and the Ferraris. Alonso and Ocon have to fight to reach Q3 but almost always manage to enter the points on Sunday. Alpine will thus only know two races without the slightest point over the whole of the year, in Bahrain during the opening round then in the United States at the end of the season.
The first part of the season is still quite disappointing and after ten Grands Prix contested, Alpine F1 has only 40 points and occupies seventh place in the constructors’ championship, behind AlphaTauri and Aston Martin and is more than 100 points behind McLaren and Ferrari. The best race result so far is Fernando Alonso’s sixth place in Baku.
Then comes the incredible Hungarian Grand Prix. Taking advantage of the pileup caused by Valtteri Bottas at the start, Esteban Ocon grabbed second place behind Lewis Hamilton on the first lap and took the lead after a strategic mistake by Mercedes. The Norman will resist the pressure of Sebastian Vettel and will benefit from the help of Fernando Alonso who will hold Hamilton back for a long time to claim his first victory in Formula 1, as well as the first for Alpine.
Boosted by this result, the French team managed to climb to fifth place in the constructors’ championship and held on until the end. Despite a less efficient single-seater than its rival AlphaTauri, it takes advantage of the regularity and homogeneity of its driver duo to make the difference.
Fernando Alonso will also have his moment of glory with a very fine third place in Qatar, his first podium for more than seven years in F1, before Ocon did very little to imitate him during the following race in Saudi Arabia, being overtaken by Bottas only at the finish line.
Alpine may not have had the fifth-best single-seater in 2021, but its ability to take advantage of racing elements like in Hungary and the consistency of its drivers ultimately made the difference against AlphaTauri. Often on the right track strategically, the French team has demonstrated that it knows how to be effective operationally and that it should be counted on in the event of a high-performance single-seater.
This will precisely be his objective for 2022, where the new regulations could allow him to catch up on the favorites. With Otmar Szafnauer at its head? Marcin Budkowski has just been landed with immediate effect.
On the other hand, another average year would probably be considered a failure after so many so-called transition years. Alonso and Ocon will still be there and Alpine F1 can count on their good understanding to try to achieve its objectives.
— 5th in the constructors’ standings with 155 points (5th with 181 points as Renault in 2020)
— 1 victory (best result in 2020: 2nd)
— 2 podiums (3 in 2020)
— Best qualification: 5th (4th in 2020)
— Qualifying record: 5 Q1, 17 Q2, 22 Q3