The newly-rebranded Alpine Formula 1 team has announced its first roster of juniors, which includes a driver who had previously been dropped from Renault’s young driver programme.
Frenchman Victor Martins had been added to the Renault Sport Academy in early 2018 after finishing runner-up in French F4, but was released two seasons later after narrowly missing out on the Formula Renault Eurocup title in a sophomore campaign.
Yet Martins returned to the category again in 2020 and took the title on his third attempt, defeating then-Renault junior Caio Collet in the process.
Both Martins and Collet will represent the Alpine Academy in F3. They will drive for the MP Motorsport team that finished sixth in the teams’ standings last year, scoring one win courtesy of Bent Viscaal.
Reigning F3 champion Oscar Piastri will, meanwhile, be one of three Alpine-backed drivers in F2, joining sophomore drivers Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard.
Piastri will remain with Prema, partnering Ferrari junior Robert Shwartzman, while both Zhou and Lundgaard will also enjoy team continuity. The former will head into a third straight F2 season with UNI-Virtuosi, while the latter will again race for ART.
As Martins returns, two other juniors exit the programme – with former Renault Eurocup champion Max Fewtrell, signed in 2017, exiting after a disappointing second F3 season, while Hadrien David isn’t retained after finishing 10th in his first Eurocup campaign.
Alpine’s announcement continues the trend of relatively minor changes in F1 junior team rosters for 2021, with both Red Bull and Ferrari having recently presented largely unchanged core rosters.
Ferrari, which added its first female junior, Maya Weug, did shed three drivers in Giuliano Alesi, Formula Regional champion Gianluca Petecof and Enzo Fittipaldi.
Petecof will drive for the late Adrian Campos’s team in F2, whereas both Alesi and Fittipaldi are stepping away from the F1 ladder, to race in Super Formula Lights and Indy Pro 2000 respectively.
After a 2020 in which it was represented by five drivers in F2, Ferrari will only have Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong, making the switch from ART to DAMS, on the series’ grid, and Arthur Leclerc as its sole driver in F3.
Red Bull, meanwhile, didn’t outright axe any of its drivers but relegated Jack Doohan and Dennis Hauger to the status of Red Bull-backed drivers rather than juniors in the aftermath of their difficult 2020 season in F3.
Its junior team will be represented by Juri Vips, Jehan Daruvala and Liam Lawson (who will also be Alex Albon’s DTM team-mate) in F2 and new signing Ayumu Iwasa alongside F4 title rivals Jonny Edgar and Jak Crawford in F3.
The biggest addition of the F1 junior programme silly season so far has been made by Mercedes, which signed F3 race winner Frederik Vesti.
Vesti will remain in the series for a second year and drive for ART instead of Prema.