Formula 1

SEASON REVIEW: 2021 Formula 1 World Championship – Alpine F1 Team

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Credit: Alpine F1 Team

Alpine F1 Team’s return to Formula One was met with a relatively successful 2021 campaign, the team achieved an incredible victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix as well as an excellent podium at the Qatar Grand Prix. The team’s line-up of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, the latter who rejoined Formula One after two years away, has proven to be a strong one with both drivers demonstrating during the season that they are more than willing to help each other for the good of the team.

The season actually started poorly for the team, however as the year went on Alpine began to demonstrate the potential which was predicted by many. By the end of the year Alonso claimed tenth in the Driver’s Championship on eighty-one points, with Ocon just missing out on a top ten finish in eleventh. The Frenchman who claimed his maiden victory at the Hungaroring, ended the year on seventy-four points. As a team they just about clinched fifth in the Constructors’ Standings, after a late season battle for the spot against Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda. Only thirteen points separated the two, however it was the French team who sealed fifth on 155 points.

It was a big call by Alpine to sign Alonso, the Spaniard was extremely vocal during his time at the Mclaren F1 Team, leaving many wondering if the two-time world champion would be a handful for the team. Those who pondered couldn’t have been anymore wrong, Alonso seemed very happy throughout the season but more importantly demonstrated that he still has the speed which took him to countless victories during his glory days. Alonso hasn’t dominated proceedings at the team though in 2021, Ocon has proven himself more than worthy of his spot in F1, after arguably his strongest season yet in the series.

Fernando Alonso pulling up to Parc Férme after finishing third at the Qatar Grand Prix – Credit: Alpine F1 Team

The Highs:

The Hungarian Grand Prix was clearly the highlight of Alpine’s season, the team were clinical enough to make the most of others misfortune, with the race seeing a number of drivers suffer significant damage. Ocon amazingly found himself in second place when the red flag was flown for the opening corner collisions, however it was his and the team’s call to pit under the race restart for Slick tyres, which arguably won him the race. Not only this but the consistent pace which he demonstrated at the Hungaroring was of the highest quality. Ocon’s victory though was also hugely down to the phenomenal defending by Alonso, who kept the charging Lewis Hamilton incredibly at bay for far longer than the seven-time world champion desired.

At the Qatar Grand Prix however it was Alonso who stepped foot on the podium, albeit the third-step, for the first time since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix. Alonso started in third after a number of drivers were awarded penalties due to Qualifying infringements, the Spaniard was past Pierre Gasly and up to second though after the first few corners, Alonso yet again demonstrated the incredibly speed and skill, which has seen him enjoy so much success over the years. There was nothing the veteran could do about the much quicker Max Verstappen, who easily moved the Spaniard aside. Alonso’s podium was ensured after his team-mate returned the favour of Hungary, and defended well against the stronger Sergio Pérez.

The following Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was another significantly positive weekend for the team, who gained yet another strong haul of points despite Alonso not even finishing in the top ten. It was all thanks to Ocon, who had third place taken away from him in the cruelest way possible after being out-dragged to the line by Valtteri Bottas. Ocon who capitalised massively after the first red flag, put himself in an excellent position whilst the title challengers came together once again. Ocon incredibly found himself in first place for the second red flag restart, before quickly dropping to third behind Hamilton and Verstappen. From then on Ocon was yet again consistent with his pace, only to be beaten to the podium by the rampant Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team W12 car. Ocon had to settle for an agonising fourth.

Esteban Ocon on the podium after winning the Hungarian Grand Prix – Credit: Alpine F1 Team

The Lows:

During the 2021 season Alpine did experience some truly dreadful weekends, none however where perhaps more disappointing than the American Grand Prix. It was the only Grand Prix of the season where both cars retired from the same race and was also one of the few weekends where neither driver made it to Qualifying Three. The American Grand Prix saw Alpine struggle massively not only over a single lap but also in the race. Both Alonso and Ocon were forced into retirement after issues with their cars were detected by the team.

There was only one other weekend in 2021 where Alpine failed to score a single point, and that came right at the very start of the season at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Ocon failed to deliver at the season-opener and was unable to even escape Qualifying One, he went on to finish in thirteenth. Alonso’s first weekend back in the sport had begun strongly, the Spaniard made it to Qualifying Three on his return but was forced into retirement during the race, after his car began to overheat due to debris caught up it’s brake ducts.

The Austrian Grand Prix was another particularly difficult one for the team, who suffered yet another dismal qualifying. This put both cars in a bad position come the opening lap of the race at the Red Bull Ring, where Esteban Ocon was forced into retirement on the opening lap, after being the filling in a sandwich at Turn 3. Both of Ocon’s front tyres bent inwards, with the Frenchman’s front suspension being completely destroyed. Alonso managed to recover some dignity for Alpine, after climbing up to tenth after a late battle with George Russell.

Alonso ahead of Nicholas Latifi at the Austrian Grand Prix – Credit: Alpine F1 Team

Qualifying Battle:

Incredibly when it came to qualifying there was nothing to separate Alonso and Ocon, both drivers managed to out-qualify each other eleven times in 2021, signalling just how tight it was between the Alpine drivers during the season. It was Alonso however who achieved the best Qualifying position, the Spaniard qualified third of course at the Qatar Grand Prix, whereas the highest starting position Ocon could manage was fifth, still impressive nevertheless.

Alonso also came out on top when it came to Sprint Qualifying, the veteran finished higher than the Frenchman at two out of three of the new events for 2021.

Ocon during the treacherous Qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix – Credit: Alpine F1 Team

Race Battle:

The pair were also ridiculously close when it came to race day! Alonso however just pipped Ocon to it by a single event. Alonso finished above Ocon at eleven races during the season, whereas Ocon could only finish above Alonso ten times, the Frenchman clearly performed valiantly against arguably the toughest team-mate of his career. Ocon did though achieve a higher single result than Alonso obviously, after winning at the Hungaroring, Alonso’s highest finish was third at the Losail International Circuit.

When it came to retirements, Ocon achieved one more than his team-mate after retiring from three races during the season, whereas Alonso only retired from two.

Alonso at the season-finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Credit: Alpine F1 Team

What To Expect In 2022?

It has already been an eventful build-up to 2022 for Alpine, after the French-side parted ways with their Executive Director Marcin Budkowski. It’s difficult to see how Alpine can improve in 2022 after arguably achieving the best they could in 2021. In order to move up the order next season Alpine will have to take the fight to one of the big teams in the sport. It seems unlikely that Alpine will be able to compete regularly against Mercedes, Red Bull Racing or Scuderia Ferrari, leaving only the Mclaren F1 Team who in themselves are considered as a real potential underdog for 2022, after their rapid progression since 2020.

Alpine should be looking to again seal at least fifth in the Constructors’ Standings, anything higher would resemble an exceptional season. For this too happen both Alonso and Ocon need to kick the ground running at the start of the campaign, a clean and positive winter for the team could give their drivers the best chance of doing so. Ocon will be looking to figure in the top ten more often, and become a frequent runner in the top six to eight drivers. In doing so he would finish the season comfortably in the top ten, and perhaps even attract interest from Mercedes, depending on the movement in the driver’s market next season.

Alonso will just be looking to do what he does best, deliver consistent points week in week out, the Spaniard is also well used to adjusting his driving style to new technical regulations in the sport. This could play massively in his favour at the start of 2022, where the cars will all be drastically different to recent years due to the new technical regulations and guidelines. Alonso will also be the oldest driver on the grid in 2022, after the departure of 2007 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen, a new tag for the Spaniard to get used to!

Alonso lifting Ocon in the air after the Frenchman claimed the first victory of his F1 career at the Hungaroring – Credit: Alpine F1 Team

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