Alpine boss Laurent Rossi admits the progress of rival Formula One team Aston Martin has acted as a reality check for his outfit this year.
Alpine finished fourth in last year’s championship standings and started the season targeting the same position but with a reduced gap to F1’s long-standing top three teams Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari.
However, after eight races of the 2023 season, Alpine is fifth in the standings and 110 points behind Aston Martin in third, a team now regularly in the fight for podiums with Mercedes and Ferrari.
“I think it was a reality check for Mercedes, Ferrari, us,” Rossi said when asked about Aston Martin’s progress. “As in s—, we were comfortable thinking that we were on the rise and everybody else was, and then suddenly there is a guy leapfrogging all of us.”
As well as signing Fernando Alonso from Alpine over the winter, Aston Martin made big-name technical recruitments last year, including Dan Fallows from Red Bull and Eric Blandin from Mercedes.
While Rossi believes high-profile signings have helped Aston Martin, he says Alpine has to play to its own strengths, including its position as a works team with its own in-house engine supply.
“They certainly hired bright people who have been working in high responsibility positions at both Red Bull and Mercedes,” Rossi said. “They have made very good work at creating the perfect hybrid system of both, and there is no surprise they are faster than Mercedes and slower than Red Bull because they are a hybrid of the two.
“They have done a great job, hats off. But we need to try and emulate that, not by hiring people from Red Bull, although we can, we are not going to copy anything because we do not have the same set of constraints, but by trying to extract more from our package and the fact that we are a works team.”
After so many years of struggling to close the gap to the front, Rossi believes a change of mindset is required at Alpine to break away from the midfield pack.
“It’s an industry that has been doing the same thing for so long that it becomes the norm that it takes that much time to get there — it’s true for everything, it’s true for road cars as well.
“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 [Aston Martin] have done it in a more radical way, putting themselves in a more uncomfortable situation to break some barriers and change a little bit more the way they were doing it.
“They have changed a couple of things, faster differently, they have taken a few more risks and it paid off.”
Alpine announced on Monday it had accepted fresh investment in its F1 team from a group of investors that includes Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. The $218.1 million deal for a 24 percent equity stake values the team at over $900 million, with Rossi saying part of the money would pay off debt owed to the team’s parent company Group Renault.
Alpine will also use the investment to fund improvements to its factory, with the aim of becoming a front-running team by the start of the next set of regulations in 2026.
“We had a plan that was three to four years — that’s the 100 race plan — to get back to the level of the top teams by being the benchmark everywhere and best in class where we need to,” Rossi said. “They are basically going to help us accelerate that plan.”
Rossi said the deal had been led by investment groups RedBird Capital Partners and Otro Capital, the former of which is an investor in Fenway Sports Group, the owner of Premier League side Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
He added that the expertise of the new investors, who will be represented on the team’s board by Alec Scheiner, the co-founder of Otro Capital, would help the team in areas away from the track, while the inclusion of Reynold’s Maximum Effort Investments would help the brand’s visibility.
“The deal was led by RedBird and Otro — Otro being a couple of people from RedBird starting their own firm, so it’s more or less one group of people talking to us on the premise that we will develop the revenue side of things,” Rossi said.
“That’s something that we are not very good it – all of us in Formula One, perhaps with the exception of one or two like Red Bull. So, [the new investors will help with] revenue, meaning sponsorship, merchandising, licensing and hospitality — the things that we don’t really do so well.
“Along the way we were thinking about how you add visibility, incremental visibility, and these guys, Maximum Effort and Ryan Reynolds, they also do that.
“They did a pretty good job with Mint Mobile and Aviation Gin and things like that. They were interested in that and we found out there was a lot of things we could do — the same on the revenue and monetarization side of things, so we said to join the bandwagon and that was it.
“We are looking at RedBird and Otro as our main stakeholders and now we have them.”