Alpine has unveiled its new-look 2021 Formula 1 racer, along with confirming that Fernando Alonso will be fit enough to test the car ahead of the season starting on 28 March.
Two-time world champion Alonso injured his jaw in a road bike fall recently and barely featured in the press conference revealing the A521, Alpine's first F1 car. But the new boss of Alpine, Laurent Rossi, confirmed that the returning F1 star would be fit for both the pre-season test and subsequent race in Bahrain.
According to Rossi, Alonso has displayed remarkable powers of recovery: “Fernando is doing very well. He was lucky because he ended up only suffering [injuries] from his jaw. Besides the necessary surgery and care on his jaw, the rest [of him] is totally fine and Fernando is completely fit. We are surprised that he has recovered so quickly … we are looking forward to seeing him next week in the car.”
The other driver is the highly-rated Esteban Ocon, who will be hoping to continue to build on his maiden podium at the penultimate round of last year's championship. Ex-Red Bull and AlphaTauri racer Daniil Kvyat is confirmed as the reserve driver.
Although the Alpine name is new to Formula 1, in reality the Anglo-French team is the same entity as the Renault squad that finished fifth in last year's championship. The new A521’s chassis and powertrain is an evolution of last season's Renault RS20, but this time the blue, red and white colour scheme plays heavily on the team's British and French bases at Enstone and Viry-Chatillon respectively.
Given the rules freeze from 2020, Alpine is hopeful that the team will continue Renault’s impressive finish to the season, where Daniel Ricciardo (now at McLaren) and Ocon scored three podium finishes.
Alpine goes into the 2021 F1 as the sole team carrying their engines - McLaren was using a Renault power unit last year but has switched back to Mercedes propulsion for 2021. Rossi acknowledged that this might cause a loss of the co-development teams gain from running the engine in several squads. However, he remains confident that because Alpine can concentrate solely on its own engine without worrying about others, the team will be competitive. He concluded: “At the end of the day, we’re pretty happy supplying ourselves at the moment.”
In a virtual unveiling that was rich in Alpine’s competition history, both Rossi and Renault CEO Luca de Meo confirmed that the team is aiming for regular podium finishes in the immediate future; outright wins and challenging for the championship remain a longer-term aim. Rossi explained that “behind the scenes and away from the track, we are building the new car and new engine [for the 2022 and onwards rules], and here our objectives are pretty aggressive. In fact, we want to tackle the new era with high ambitions and we decisively designed our processes and our team in order to first compete for podiums in the mid-term and then, in the longer run, compete for victories. Not just race wins, but also the championship.”