Alpine open to placing F1 juniors with other teams
Alpine is confident it can work with other Formula 1 teams to find seats for its young drivers in the future despite currently having no customer or affiliated squads.
As part of the rebranding of Renault’s F1 project as Alpine for 2021, the French marque launched its 2021 academy on Wednesday, with three of its five members set to race in F2 this year.
Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard will return to F2 with UNI Virtuosi and ART Grand Prix respectively, while Oscar Piastri graduates to the category with Prema following his F3 title win last year.
Alpine Academy director Mia Sharizman outlined that both Zhou and Lundgaard are expected to fight for the F2 title this year after struggling to feature in the championship battle last season.
But Alpine appears limited on options to place its junior drivers in F1 moving forward. At the senior squad, Fernando Alonso has signed for 2021 on a two-year deal, while teammate Esteban Ocon is out of contract at the end of the season.
Ferrari has been able to place its young drivers with both Alfa Romeo and Haas for 2021, while Mercedes has George Russell at Williams. McLaren was the only Renault customer team in F1 last year, but has since switched to Mercedes power units, leaving Alpine without any affiliation to other teams.
Sharizman accepted that it “doesn’t make it any easier” for Alpine, but was confident there would be ways to work with other teams should it need to place its juniors without an existing affiliation.
“It is something that we have identified, ways and means to ultimately get the drivers to our seat,” Sharizman said.
“Without a power unit supply or without any connections, there can still be a collaboration between other teams. I won’t divulge too much into it.
“But having said that, we focus on what we have, we focus on the two race seats that we have, the academy that we have, and the tools that we have.
“Obviously, going into our team is the priority. But we believe that there is still room for collaboration with other teams, irrespective of the power unit supply.”
Alpine ran all three drivers in private F1 tests last year, sampling the 2018-spec Renault car, but it is unclear what appearances will be afforded to them this year.
Despite having a trio of youngsters all looking to make the final step to F1, Sharizman felt each driver was at a different stage of their careers.
“The three of them are three different years, going into the championship: you have Zhou in his third year, Christian in his second year, and obviously Oscar is a rookie,” said Sharizman when asked by Motorsport.com how he planned to manage all three drivers.
“It’s slightly a different proposition, and a different way of planning.
“It will bring the situation similar to what Ferrari has gone through last year. But at the moment, we do feel that for example in the case of Oscar, it would take time, but without that expectation, we are aware of how he can progress.
“We have to have a Plan A and a Plan B already for now. That is something that is in the back of our mind. We think it will be OK for us, and we can manage it well, and how we can ensure that the three drivers that we have get up to where they want to be.”
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