The Alpine Formula One team has been in flux for the past two seasons — and 2022 looks no different. The former Renault Team has gone through driver and personnel changes on a regular basis, and things came to a head earlier this week when Alain Prost was summarily dismissed. If you’re struggling to keep up, we’re here to help lay it out in simple terms for you.
An Unsteady Transition
Just before the 2021 season, former team boss Cyril Abiteboul left the team as it transitioned from Renault to Alpine — which came as a surprise to many F1 fans. At the time, the Alpine takeover signaled that there would be changes, but most people were expecting Abiteboul to transition to a different role in the team, not to leave it altogether. In fact, he was pegged to take the CEO position — one that was later filled by Laurent Rossi.
Under Abiteboul’s management, the team grew and found consistent success in many races, which ultimately culminated in three podiums for the team’s drivers in 2020. Without that senior expertise, Alpine would be going into 2021 on shaky ground.
Abiteboul was replaced by former Suzuki MotoGP head Davide Brivio, and Marcin Bukowski took up the role of executive director. Things appeared to be going fine; Alpine secured yet another fifth-place finish in the Constructors’ Championship, and driver Esteban Ocon even won a race. Overall performance slipped a bit, but for a year of serious transition, Alpine had a lot to be proud of.
On its face, though, things looked fine. Personnel changes are common in motorsport, and Alpine is still getting its footing. Not ideal, but not a crisis. Right?
And Then There’s Alain Prost
Oh, no. It’s a crisis.
Alpine announced that four-time World Champion Alain Prost would be departing from his role as team advisor — and Prost was not impressed. He immediately took to Instagram to air his grievances against the team.
His post caption read:
I am very disappointed how this new has been annnouced today ! It was agreed that we would announce together with @alpinef1team ! No respect sorry ! I have refused the offer made to me in abudhabi for the 2022 season because of a personal relationship and I was right ! To the enstone and Viry team I will miss you
Well, that doesn’t seem ideal, does it? To make things worse, Prost was so incensed that he went straight to l’Equipe, a French sports paper, to really lay into Alpine — and he puts all the blame for the chaos straight on Laurent Rossi’s shoulders.
“Laurent Rossi wanted all the light,” Prost said. “Laurent Rossi’s desire is to be alone, not to be polluted by anyone… He told me he no longer needed advice. There is a real desire to put a lot of people on the sidelines.”
Prost went on to claim that “jealousy” played a role in his choice not to renew his Alpine contract, though he affirmed that he still believes in the Alpine racing project. But his belief was turned against him.
Here’s more from Prost:
The 2021 season was very disruptive for me, in that I felt that the old ones (at the team) had to go. I accept the change because we don’t have to do F1 always the same way. We can do it differently, and that is what throughout the last year has been done. But for me, it became too complicated.
I was no longer involved in the decisions. Sometimes I did not even share in them at all but I had to continue to put out the official word.
Even as a member of the board of directors, I discovered certain decisions at the last minute. One might not be able to be heard, but at least one should be warned in time. It’s a question of respect. Relations became more and more complicated. I felt that there was a lot of jealousy.
What I don’t appreciate is the relationship and the lack of respect for people.
When the team boss doesn’t even say hello to you when you arrive at the circuit, it’s because there’s no more fun. There isn’t even any respect anymore. And then it just can’t work.
Why Does It Matter?
In an interview with RACER during the United States Grand Prix weekend in October 2021, Rossi stated that, “I’ve been assessing, diagnosing the team, making some changes… And I’ll carry on making changes, I know for a fact I’m going to carry on making changes as we go...
“But I’m still looking at places where we can reinforce, strengthen, correct things for the future, and I want to build muscles for the team to be able to constantly make progress, go up and up and up.”
It’s clear that Rossi has done that — but it doesn’t sound like it’s been for the best. At the very least, you should probably avoid entering a team and immediately burning bridges with a multi-time World Champion.
The biggest indicator of Rossi’s success will come in the upcoming 2022 season. Will Alpine find its direction and finally move from fifth in the Championship to fourth? Will we see a stronger, more competitive team? Or will hard feelings hamper the progress of the team? It’s hard to tell now — but it’s going to be one of the bigger storylines coming into this new year.