Formula 1

Alpine F1 Team’s Marcin Budkowski – “The gaps are so small in the midfield”

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Credit: Alpine F1 Team

2021 has seen a lot of changes at Alpine F1 Team. Not only has the team rebranded from Renault but they’ve made some exciting changes to figures in the background.

One of those is Executive Director Marcin Budkowski. Budkowski has been part of the team since 2018 and recently overtook Jerome Stoll as Director of Alpine Racing.

Going into the 2021 season, Budkowski expects the team to carry on the momentum from 2020. Renault gained three podiums in the second half of the season, cementing them back on the podium for the first time since 2011. He also expects the year ahead be relatively similar in terms of other teams performances, especially the battle in the midfield.

Budkowski said: As a result of the Covid pandemic, the introduction of the new regulations was delayed to 2022 and a significant part of the cars has been frozen for 2021, so this season is a somewhat an extension of the 2020 campaign.

However, the FIA has imposed some aerodynamic changes to reduce the downforce and protect the tyres, which have forced us to redevelop the back of the car, and we have worked to improve every area that has not been homologated.

Due to the relative regulatory stability, we shouldn’t see big differences in the competitive order of the field, however, the gaps are so small in the midfield that we still expect close fights at every track. We know that small differences in performance can make a big difference in the final championship position. Certainly, we hope to build on the good momentum of last season, especially the second half where we scored three podiums, and carry it into this year.

As the 2021 season starts, the Coronavirus pandemic is still unfortunately at large. However, Budkowski credits how well F1 has dealt with the ongoing situation.

“Understandably, it’s been a challenging year for everybody. From a Formula 1 team point of view, we had to cope with the numerous restrictions imposed by the Covid pandemic. But F1 organisations are agile and good at this type of challenge. Once we were able to reopen our factory, we had to adapt to social distancing rules with a large proportion of personnel working from home.

“This impacted the collaborative work by not having people sat close together, exchanging ideas and working creatively, and led us to take innovative approaches. It also forced us to change the way we operate our production facility to maintain our capacity while keeping our team members safe.”

With the new regulations being brought in for 2022, Alpine had to ‘tread carefully’ between developing the A521 and developing the brand new 2022 car. The new regulations were supposed to be brought in the forth coming season, however they have been delayed due to the pandemic.

“Together with the postponement of the new regulations, it was decided early last year to impose a temporary ban on 2022 aerodynamic development, both in the wind tunnel and in CFD, until 1 January this year. This brings an interesting challenge, as we have to tread carefully between the temptation of developing the A521 into the season and ramping up the whole new 2022 car project.

It’s a balancing act that F1 teams face every season, but the magnitude of the rule change for 2022, which is unprecedented in Formula 1, makes it even more important to begin early and get the initial concept right. All teams are facing these decisions and it will be fascinating to see how early they will switch their focus to 2022 and what impact it will have on this year’s championship.”

Along with a rebranding, Alpine have a new driver for the season. Veteran driver Fernando Alonso returns to the grid after a two year hiatus and has just as much drive as ever to perform. Esteban Ocon continues with the team and will be hoping for more glory after achieving his first podium in F1 with a second place finish at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

“It’s a great line-up. Fernando’s motivation is incredible and observing him driving and working with his engineers at the Abu Dhabi test last year was nothing short of impressive. He has the professionalism of an experienced driver combined with the hunger of a young driver.

Esteban ramped up his performance all the way through last year and was rewarded by a superb, and well deserved, second place in the Sakhir Grand Prix. He is very working very hard and I’m expecting him to make another step this season, making the most of his experience with the team. It’s important the drivers work well together and with the team as we expect them to play an essential role in the development of the car this year and provide important feedback on the directions we are taking for 2022 in the simulator.”

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