Alpine is open to working with a new Formula 1 team as an engine supplier and has “talked to prospective entrants”.
F1 has had the same 10 teams on the grid since Haas joined in 2016 but is part-way through implementing a range of initiatives designed to make the championship more appealing and competitive.
The gradual overhaul includes cutting costs, introducing a first-ever budget cap to limit the spending of F1’s biggest teams, and next year switching to all-new technical rules to simplify the cars.
Much of the focus on a potential new F1 entrant has been on the Volkswagen Group’s participation in engine talks for 2025 but there have also been two groups publicly state their intent to join the grid.
Alpine executive director Marcin Budkowski says there have also been private expressions of interest and that Alpine – Renault’s works entry – has even held preliminary talks with some parties.
“There’s people who are interested in entering the sport,” said Budkowski.
“Some of them have made themselves public and have been covered in the press over the past couple of years. Some of them have not looked for publicity or public knowledge.
“There’s a lot of people interested in Formula 1 because it’s a great sport and hopefully it is going to become a sustainable and maybe profitable business with the cost cap and improved prize fund.
“So, there’s lots of interest. We have talked to prospective entrants. At the moment it hasn’t really borne fruit in terms of a new entrant.
“Obviously, it’s not that easy. The FIA needs to open a tender and then it needs to be a process going through.
“If there was a good project being mounted with someone with financing and good and a clever approach to building a new team then we are open to discussion and consider supporting that operation with an engine or powertrain supply.
“It’s not easy to start a Formula 1 team from scratch. It’s also not easy to compete in F1 with an existing team. But starting from scratch is a massive endeavour.”
Earlier this year Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said a collaboration with another team was possible in the future but not actively being pursued.
Existing as a standalone entity in a grid filled with suppliers and customers has made Alpine particularly sensitive to collaborations in recent years.
It has been one of the most vocal about teams with shared ownership or engine deals working too closely together.
Budkowski admitted there is still a “concern” that other teams with a “common interest in exchanging information” will be helping one another in a way Alpine cannot.
“I’m not going to accuse people because I don’t know and I hope nothing is happening,” he said.
“Clearly going into 2022 with a massive change of regulations, big development slope, lots of performance being gained on this very green set of regulations, the benefit you can get from collaboration – whether it is legal or less [than legal] – are massive.
“And if there’s a year where these kinds of collaborations can pay off it’s this year, for 2022. So if there’s a year where we expect the FIA to be really all over it, it’s this year.”
MISSING ENGINE DATA COULD HURT NEXT YEAR
Though the works team was rebranded in the Alpine name for 2021, the team has continued to develop and run its F1 engines under the Renault name.
Renault is the only engine manufacturer in F1 with just one team after McLaren switched to Mercedes for 2021.
Mercedes supplies engines to four teams including its works entry, while Ferrari has its own team plus two customers and Honda supplies the two Red Bull-owned teams. Honda’s engines will continue to be used by Red Bull and AlphaTauri in 2022 after Honda has withdrawn from F1 itself.
Alpine’s position as the sole Renault team means the engine manufacturer is collecting considerably less data than its opposition and its kilometre count in pre-season testing this year reflected that position.
While every team will have to troubleshoot brand new cars in 2022, Alpine’s solo status could be more relevant given Renault will introduce an all-new engine as well.
In the past, its developments have yielded reliability issues, and less mileage will reduce the opportunity to identify problems and optimise the new power unit.
F1 will have a longer pre-season schedule in 2022, likely to be two separate tests after the unusually short single-day offering this year.
That will improve the chances of Alpine getting the data it needs from its new engine but it will still miss not having a customer to help that process.
When asked if there was any concern about having no customer for data collection, Budkowski referred to the major car changes representing “an exceptionally low amount of carryover” with “almost no common parts” – suggesting that preparing the car itself is an equal challenge.
“In our case with a new engine it’s beneficial but I think it applies to all the car systems in general,” he said.
“The concern really is you come with a new engine, you come into an engine freeze, you still have the right to do changes for reliability reasons, so if we had a big reliability issue we could still fix it.
“Obviously the engine freeze makes it more difficult to evolve something. So we are very focused on delivering the right package from the beginning of the season to be able to de-risk it as much as we can over the winter.
“You’ve got dynos for this. You can do some extensive testing. But nothing replaces bolting an engine in a car and getting it around a track.”