Can Alpine Win Another Title?
Alpine 3rd Title

Can Alpine Win Another Title?

The Eagle eye’d readers among you may be shouting that Alpine have never won a title, and technically that is true, however this is very much a rebrand of the Renault team given that Alpine is a subsidiary of Renault and the engine in the back of the car is still even badged as Renault E-Tech. Therefore, I think it still stands as a 3rd win they’re pushing for. If you disagree, great!

Now in this article I’m going to focus on the Enstone team branded as Renault and not the Benneton team which was based in the same buildings since 1992 and took Michael Schumacher to two titles, but instead ask the question of whether Renault (now Alpine) can bring the Enstone team back to a third title after so many years of failure since 2006 ended.


Alpine, and more over Otmar, have recently been bullish on the fact that they began their 100 race run back to the top this year, and this would mean that they are currently on a trajectory to win the title in 2025 or maximum 2026, given we’re averaging 23 race seasons. Looking at you 2023 24 race calendar.

Now I don’t want to bash Alpine too much given they have made some serious progress since Renault re-re-re-entered F1 back in 2016. However it has to be said that over the past few weeks they have seemed like a less than championship capable outfit having lost two stellar drivers due to looking at contracts the way Ferrari looks at Hard tyres. 

There was a time though, when Renault was a serious outfit and in order to look to their future, we must first look at their past. I will, as stated be skipping over Enstone’s Benneton Era…and Toleman before them…as much as I’ll leave out Renault’s first foray into the turbo era of F1 back in 1977, that team technically raced against itself, as it left in 1985 while Toleman was still in F1. Crazy.

This means we begin our story over two decades ago, back in 2000, when a young Bubbles/Discount Moby, was excitedly watching a Red Ferrari driven by a current F1 driver’s dad, to championship success and more importantly, for our uses…the French government was splitting the bill on Renault’s $120million purchase of Benneton Formula Ltd.

Prefer to Watch

A Steal

Before we move on, can I just quickly point out, $120million is an absolute steal for an F1 team…especially one that had recently won two titles…Elon Musk could buy two Benneton’s for breakfast. Renault though wouldn’t rebrand the Enstone team for another two years, continuing to run as Benetton for 2000 and 2001, only badging the engine as Renault in 2001. The reporting at the time noted,   The French were not playing around here, and we know historically, they do not surrender from a fight. 

Clearly in 2002, the team was more than ready to win with two absolutely incredible drivers who would go on to win not multiple, but one, title between them. Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button. The form of winning that year was to pick up 23 points that year, still though, it could be worse, they could be Haas in 2021.

It wasn’t all losses that season though, as their Spanish test driver was making waves among the paddock as a future talent. They decided to put him in the hot seat for 2003, and soon this yet to be proven Fernando Alonso, would show what he was made of. Of course this meant dropping one of their current star drivers. So obviously they dropped their driver who had scored the most points right? The clear winner? One who would go on to win a championship?…nah they dropped Button and kept Trulli…now I think of it perhaps Alpine and this Renault aren’t so different after all. Looking at you Ocon and Giovinazzi in 2023….wtf….

Renault was making incredibly innovative moves though, being as risky as possible, for example they designed an 111 degree 10 cylinder engine for the 2003 season that put more weight lower in the engine to give the car a lower centre of gravity and improve handling. I have no idea what any of this means, the point is though, it gave Renault their first win since 1983 at Hungary with Alonso putting on an incredible display of his talent, becoming the youngest F1 race winner at the time…ironically at the same track where Ocon would later take his first win. 

Engine Genius

This engine design though was proving to be unreliable and heavy, but did the French brand give up, no they pushed ahead and made new materials to…oh no, they gave up, never mind. They moved to a conventional engine for 2004.

The engine change didn’t seam to make a difference though as the team had an impressive 2004, where Trulli, truly pulled his socks up and won his only ever Grand Prix of his career at Monaco. Then decided that the team and Flavio Briatorri were developing the car towards Alonso at his detriment. An absolutely ridiculous statement, why would a team focus most of its attention on the driver who is single handedly putting them second in the constructors. Take off your tin-foil hat Jarno.

They tried out 1997 Formula 1 champion, Jaques Villenueve for the last three races, but given it was no longer Ryan Reynolds driving, he failed to impress and wasn’t given a contract for 2005.

If you don’t get that joke, then watch this video

Anyway, they finally settled on Giancarlo Fisichella for the 2005 season, who through an impressive wet race drive, won the opening race at Australia…before the little spaniard said enough was enough and went on to win the next three races on the trot.

Coming Together

Everything came together for the team that year, they had built not only a fast car but reliability was in their favour. This would be a real help given the McLaren Mp4-20 was an incredibly fast car (notably, the last McLaren to be directly designed by Newey who was leaving the team at the end of the year for Red Bull…wonder how that went) but the McLaren was by most measures the fastest car in 2005 and with Kimi at the helm, realistically should have won the championship. It was reliability though that put them out of contention. Fernando wrapped up the title at Brazil, with Renault taking it’s first constructors championship at the finale in China. 

This year also notably marked the end of a winning streak for Ferrari and Schumacher.

The team also took the 2006 championship, however after the issues surrounding an impending banning of the Mass Damper system which Renault had pioneered began hanging over their heads, the team removed the system after the German Grand Prix. After this they had a difficult season, which they blamed on tyres but it’s fairly clear the Mass Damper system removal had a major effect. It had done enough early in the season to secure a second constructors championship at Brazil, with Alonso taking his second driver’s championship out the door with him to McLaren.

Renault had a couple more years of decent drives but after Briatore and Nelson Piquet Jr’s, let’s call it little, race fixing scheme where Nelson caused a crash to help Alonso win at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, the team began to unravel and sadly in terms of timing as they were on a path back towards the top. They sold 75% of the team, that would become Lotus the following year and began to wipe their hands clean of the sport. Briatore resigned, Alonso left for Ferrari and that…as they say in the business Ladies and Gentlemen, was that. Curtains…as Elon Musk would say.

A Return

In 2016 though, the French decided “hey hold on though, we may have surrounded twice already….and we’re discussing F1 here men, not the way, but lets get our baguettes, enjoy this delicious espresso and then jump back in the TRAAAAUNNNCHHH”

They made all of the right moves, they said, if these drivers aren’t good enough for McLaren then they are good enough for us! Signing Kevin Magnussen and Joylon Palmer…then they looked around for a stellar, top of the ranks Team Principal, one who could match the might of their old Briatore…but when they couldn’t find one, they said there’s a man skulking around FE…he’ll do and welcomed Frederick Vasuer as their team principal.

They had a season about as amazing as you could imagine, finishing 9th in the championship. They decided it was all Frederick Vasuers fault, who then resigned and brought in Cyril…oh Cyril…

By the 2020 championship, they had gotten close to a fight for 3rd, this was it, Renault’s return to the top. Sure they lost their star driver in Daniel Ricciardo for the 2021 season, but would they give up? Of course…they kicked out Cyril who had gotten them from 9th in 2016 to almost 3rd in 2020…and decided to rebrand the team as Alpine…so that there would be less pressure on the team…yep…typical.

Basically, what I’m getting at here, is that this is a team which has repeatedly thrown in the towel just as they are building momentum back to the front. The question now brings us full circle, is Alpine destined to meet the same fate as their big brother Renault has so many times? 

Interestingly there are some serious, perhaps coincidental, parities between the entries in 2000 and this one, but sadly there are also some parities between this entry and their 2016 entry as well as their 2009 season. 

There are 84 races left, of their 100 race plan. So what can we deduce from their current trajectory, mapped onto their past, to conclude what is going right and more importantly what is going wrong.

A Renewed Vision

If we start with the heart of the car, the engine, this is a big area of overlap between the new Alpine team and how they acted on the verge of their first title win. They were pushing the envelope and trying different things, in the face of unreliability. This is something we saw clearly even at pre-season testing this year. Renault have supplied the Alpine team with a monster of an engine, I would rate it on power terms as being definitely up there with Ferrari and like 2004, they have faced some early reliability issues because of this. However, unlike 2004, it’s now too late to scrap this. They are stuck with this engine for better or for worse until 2026. I rate this as a good thing, they’ve come with a powerful engine and now they can ensure it’s bulletproof over the next 12-24 months to have it perfect for their 2025 season deadline. Remember the teams can make changes for reliability reasons!

In terms of chassis, I think the same could be said, they are making strong moves and this is why they have been consistently the 4th fastest car at many tracks. They seem to have their technical might in hand given that the concept they arrived with was similar in a multitude of ways to the now title leading Red Bull RB18. Although McLaren aren’t far off, or would be ahead if Daniel Ricciardo was where Lando is…sad Badger noises…they have nonetheless brought a strong car to the table. One they can build on and close the gap over the next two years. It’s an extremely strong starting point.

So far I’d say they are more 2002 Renault, that 2016 Renault. This though is where things begin to fall apart. We begin with the drivers. 

I understand why they brought Alonso back into the fold in 2021, this made sense, he is still a strong driver whose proven this over and over again. I also understand why they took a punt on Ocon, even though he has repeatedly been smashed by teammates who weren’t former World Champions. However they could have had, what I would say would be one of the strongest lineups on the grid for 2023, ironically a similar lineup to one that beat them in 2007. They could have signed Alonso for 2 more years and put the Lewis Hamilton esque rookie, Pastri in the seat beside him. They would have had a lineup that a lot of teams would have envied. The still incredibly fast old fox in Alonso, and the fastest kid on the lot in Oscar. Instead they’ve lost both due to silly errors…due to being complacent and thinking they are one of the top teams who people are dying to do everything for. Much more Briatore with the FIA in 2008…than 2004 Renault ready to pounce.

That’s 2-1 so far then…its about to be a draw though, as we look at the current team principal. However I’d like to point out, Otmar is an incredible team principal…but he’s definitely a lot more Frederick Vasuer than a Flavio Briatore. This isn’t meant to be an insult, Vasuer has done an amazing job with Sauber, just as Otmar did with Force India, however when it comes to winning a title, you need a guy who’ll get in the ring and do whatever it takes. Think more Christian Horner and Toto Wolf, less Matter Binotto. Although I think they didn’t replace him correctly, I think it was right for Aston to make this decision. He’s not a title winning Team Principal. Sometimes an amazing MidField team principal just won’t cut it. They need their Briatore, for better or for worse.

Oh no it’s a draw now…or is it. Well personally, I think the last point, which is the nail in the title based coffin, is the fact that they switched to Alpine as a brand. Sure, you could argue this either way, that this is Renault’s sports brand, and it makes much more sense for them to use it…but realistically it tells me that the corporate thinkers inside Renault are doing what they did in 2000 until 2002…they are saying “the team will not race under the Renault name until it is ready to win and reap the marketing benefits.” This, right there, shows me they’ve got one foot in and one foot out, and to win a Formula 1 world title, especially with the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull on the field…it’s all in or all out