- Early Steps
- Renault Elf Era
- Going Back And Fourth
- Glorious Alonso Era
- Failed Lotus-Renault Fusion
- Return To Success
- Alpine Emerges
- Renovated Expectations
Regarded as a team with a great tradition, Alpine is among the organisations that most left their mark on the motorsport elite. Its history dates back to the 1950s when it created and maintained a strong connection with Renault, which allowed it to establish itself in the frenetic world of Formula 1 through its powerful engines.
Meanwhile, two of the greatest pilots the sport has ever seen defended the colours of this team. We are talking about the emblematic Alain Prost and Fernando Alonso.
With them, the team achieved the greatest successes to date. In addition to winning back-to-back drivers’ championships with Fernando Alonso, at the time under Renault’s name, won two constructors’ titles in 2005 and 2006.
However, the story does not stop there. The actual Alpine debuted on the grid in 2021 and promises to fight for the title to the chronic candidates.
Below, the article covers Alpine’s journey from its inception to the present day, where it has lived through several periods filled with emotion and instability.
At the hands of Jean Rédélé, the French brand Alpine appeared in 1955, which had remarkable success and tradition in motorsport. The rise was quick from the beginning at a time they dedicated themselves to producing cars for the automotive giant Renault.
It wouldn’t be until the 1970s, with the continuous improvements of the iconic Alpine A110, that the brand reached worldwide fame, not only because of the aesthetics of the vehicle in question but because of its fierce competitiveness in the Rally championship. At its peak, no other was accomplishing as much as the A110.
Years later, the company would eventually be bought by Renault in 1973, starting a historic relationship within the elite of motorsport, especially in Formula 1.
Renault Elf Era
Perhaps one of the biggest game-changing manufacturers, Renault has been in the Formula 1 spotlight as a builder and engine supplier since 1977. The brand had some on-and-off periods, but the legacy built is enviable.
From that year, the company entered this category as a builder through the Renault Elf team under a French licence.
The team introduced the revolutionary 1.5-litre Turbo V6 engine at Formula 1 in its first car, the Renault RS01. During the ’70s and the 1980s, this was highly praised as the best engine from this period, although having reliability issues.
Renault’s refined ability didn’t go unnoticed, and in 1983, the team started to provide engines for the rest of the grid. Although with some achievements, they ended up withdrawing from the competition in late 1985 but would remain supplying engines until 1986.
Success came when Renault Elf signed Alain Prost in the 1981 edition, as the team was performing well and started to win races and compete for the championship. However, the decline began when he achieved second place in the 1983 season.
The results caused some tension between Prost and the rest of the team. The driver insisted Renault hadn’t been able to maximise the car’s performance, thus criticising the board. Unfortunately, the relationship reached an unsustainable point, and Prost moved to McLaren to run alongside Niki Lauda in 1984.
Going Back And Fourth
At a time when many teams ended up leaving Formula 1 due to financial problems, Renault could not maintain financial health either. The automotive brand had to save money, so having a team competing in Formula 1 was not possible.
Renault tried to reverse the situation in 1986. The company stopped having a factory team and remained only providing engines to other competitors.
In the meantime, they decided to stop with it, and Renault vanished from Formula 1. The brand restarted supplying engines three years later but lasted until 2000.
The Renault team returned to Formula 1 in 2000 when the French company bought Benetton. They had competed in Formula 1 since 1981, initiating its trajectory in the pinnacle of motorsport as Toleman. Later in 1986, the team adopted the name Benetton Formula after being acquired by the Benetton family.
The French bought the Benetton Formula team and renamed it Benetton-Renault the following year. In 2002, the name Benetton completely disappeared, and Renault F1 Team returned to its habitat.
Glorious Alonso Era
A new era had just begun, and the enthusiasm surrounding the return was huge. The results were still not as impressive as the first golden years, but this period was undoubtedly one of the most glorious in the team’s history.
The team brought in Fernando Alonso in 2003 and had a new young star in the making. And this would be the moment that defined what was destined to come. Just in the first season, Renault finished fourth place, and Alonso got his first career victory in the Hungarian GP.
The following year, better performances guaranteed a climb to the podium securing third place in the constructors’ standings. With Alonso on the wheel, Renault won constructors’ and drivers’ championships in 2005 and 2006, putting an end to the era of rule of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher.
Soon after, the team suffered some changes with Alonso’s first departure. After conquering two titles, the Spaniard decided to move to McLaren in 2006.
A year later, after a series of internal conflicts with Lewis Hamilton and McLaren, Alonso came back to Renault. However, the team failed to achieve the same brilliant results in recent years. The constant change of drivers did not help the situation either.
More controversial episodes would eventually happen in the track. After the 2008 Singapore GP, it was revealed that Alonso’s then-teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. had purposely provoked an accident to give him the victory and quickly, chaos ensued within the team.
Due to the allegations, the team boss Flavio Briatore was banned from Formula 1, and there was much uncertainty about whether Renault would be allowed to remain competing.
The case only got worse. The sponsors left, shares were sold, and the project was in shambles. At last, the brand name would disappear from the car, and Renault prevailed only as an engine supplier.
Failed Lotus-Renault Fusion
At the end of 2010, an agreement was reached between Renault, the Lotus Group and Genii Capital. Now renamed Lotus Renault GP, the team started racing under an English licence from the 2011 season onwards.
The name Lotus generated a legal dispute between them and Lotus Racing which was the first to use it since the beginning of the 2010 season.
Before the impasses, both teams participated in the 2011 season under the Lotus name. The issue was only solved in late 2011 when Team Lotus adopted the Caterham name from the 2012 season onwards.
In the same season, the team dropped the Renault name for good and became Lotus F1 Team. Nevertheless, Renault remained in Formula 1 as an engine supplier to Lotus itself, as well as Caterham, Red Bull and Williams.
Things didn’t work out well once again. Lotus suffered a severe financial crisis during the 2015 season. Later that year, Renault announced that it had bought the team to compete again under its name, which happened during the following five seasons.
Return To Success
Despite the unstable periods, Renault’s engines were reliably unmatchable and helped other teams to succeed. Red Bull Racing achieved an incredible sequence of four constructors’ and drivers’ world titles with Sebastian Vettel, precisely using the French engines.
After the regulation modifications and introduction of hybrid engines in 2014, the team lost ground to Mercedes, who came to dominate Formula 1. The relationship between Red Bull and Renault began to deteriorate, with the team often blaming the poor performance of the French power units for the awful run.
Following months of public discussions with Red Bull, Renault decided to take advantage of the financial problems of Lotus. The brand bought back the structure and returned to its factory team in 2016.
With Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, the French team slowly began walking back towards the top. From 2016 to 2019, Renault’s upward trajectory was visible.
Hungry for more, Renault tried to take the next step under Cyril Abiteboul’s leadership and with Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg as drivers. They set their sights on closing the gap to the leading teams to have an opportunity to fight for the title.
The following seasons showed that disputing for the championship was still too big a step for the team, which lost ground to McLaren in 2019 and even to Racing Point in 2020.
In 2020, another page of history would be written in the books. The president of the Renault Group, Luca De Meo announced the rebrand of the Alpine F1 Team that entered the grid in 2021.
The Renault Group intended to promote Alpine further since the brand had a prestigious racing history in the sportscar and rally categories. With that, the name Renault started to baptise solely the engine, and the iconic yellow and black colours were replaced by blue, red and white.
For the first season with the new name, the team would have the return of the two-time world champion Fernando Alonso after two seasons away from the category. Alongside him was the Frenchman Esteban Ocon.
The performances of both drivers made the team progress compared to the last few years, winning the first race since the return of the factory team at the Hungarian GP with Ocon.
With the recent success of Alonso and Ocon, there are high expectations for Alpine. The rule change was a success for the team as they finished the 2022 season in fourth place, beating McLaren despite several reliability issues.
But the team has bigger ambitions and wants to close the gap to the top, but at the moment, the competition is extremely fierce with Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes battling for the world title.
Alpine needs to maintain its upward tendency and overcome the reliability issues that cost the team so many points. In 2023, the team will race without Fernando Alonso as Pierre Gasly is ready to pair up with Esteban Ocon.