Alpine is actively looking at partnerships with other Formula 1 teams on the grid that might allow it to get race seats for its academy drivers.
McLaren’s move to Mercedes power units leaves Renault with no customer teams and only the works outfit — now rebranded as Alpine — being supplied. After announcing an academy line-up featuring three Formula 2 drivers in Guanyu Zhou, Christian Lundgaard and rookie Oscar Piastri, academy director Mia Sharizman said that while the goal is to produce world champions with Alpine, he is having to proactively seek out opportunities for race seats in case there isn’t one at his team.
“I wouldn’t say we’re on the back foot but it’s something to look at in the longer term,” Sharizman said. “Yes, it’s a given that it’s easier to have a customer team or sister team, but we have to look at ourselves. We are actively in discussions with various teams that there’s potential with regards to drivers, not necessarily connected to the power unit or things like that.
“If you look at our case, we have Esteban (Ocon) with Mercedes. So for us we are actively looking into that and especially this year when we have three drivers who we would say are on the verge of a role in Formula 1, whether it’s a reserve role or whether it’s a race role.
“Nevertheless, I think we treat the individual drivers and look for a short-term and a long-term solution, (even) be it with another team. But obviously we have to look within ourselves first to look at if we can place them with us. So it just makes the work harder, that’s all, but we are confident that Zhou and Christian, we can have a solution for them.”
The Alpine academy has yet to promote a driver directly to F1, but Sharizman says the current crop of recruits are the closest the program has come to achieving that target.
“We know that timing is everything in terms of moving up the ladder. We are at the stage where we have three drivers in Formula 2 and who are capable of fighting for the title. We have been looking and anticipating it, starting from this year — 2021, 2022 and 2023 — to place them.
“I can’t divulge much more, but obviously we have our own team and our own seat that we have control of and we are looking at for our Formula 2 drivers, and at the same time we are looking into Formula 1 as a general market.”