MotorsportWeek.com delves into Groupe Renault’s decision to rebrand its Formula 1 team for the 2021 season and answers some of the key talking points.
What has happened?
The Renault Formula 1 team will have a new name from the 2021 season onwards.
It comes at the behest of new Renault CEO Luca de Meo, who took up the role in July after a tumultuous spell for the wider group, and he arrived following an impressive roster of positions in the automotive industry, most prominently at Fiat and Volkswagen.
Renault will compete as Alpine Formula 1 team though the engines will continue to be known as Renaults.
The chassis will continue to be built at Enstone, in the United Kingdom, with the power unit work undertaken at Viry-Chatillon, in France.
What is Alpine?
Alpine is a sports car brand that is, at the moment, very, very niche. It has had limited exposure in motorsport, most prominently in LMP2 with the Signatech team, and only has one car, the A110.
The brand has straight-lined before, when production was stopped in the 1990s, but was revived in 2017, and again survived a potential axe during Renault’s full-scale assessment earlier this year.
De Meo wants to leverage the Alpine brand as the sporting entity of Groupe Renault – akin to how Mercedes has AMG, or Volkswagen has Porsche.
What about the livery?
Renault has run its corporate colours since its return to Formula 1 as a works team in 2016, with the black-and-yellow cars featuring prominently.
But with the new Alpine moniker will come new liveries for Esteban Ocon and the returning Fernando Alonso in the 2021 season.
Alpine’s rich blue is set to come onboard, along with a French tricolore on the rear of the car, which De Meo joked looked like a Union Flag from above – pointing to the synergy between the French and British wings of the team.
It is likely to be a slightly deeper blue than that which featured on the cars in the mid-2000s.
Why is it being done?
There are two ways to interpret this.
In one viewpoint is that ‘Project Renault’ has not worked and that renaming it as Alpine is one way to continue involvement without the Renault name – and perhaps wider prominence if it does go wrong.
Another angle is that Renault has renewed its commitment to the championship and has tacit belief in the new era that it is willing to market a brand that isn’t even widely known within motorsport circles.
“We kind of restart, it’s like a new start,” said De Meo on 2021, which will be year six since the company returned to Formula 1.
“Renault has been around for 120 years, I don’t think a move will jeopardise awareness or likeability or perception of Renault, it’s a big enough and traditional manufacturer. This is a way to move on, to do something new, attractive, credible. I feel confident it could be a very good story.”
What about a customer team?
Alpine will be powered by the company’s Renault engines in 2021 – but will be the only team with the marque’s grunt in the car.
Mercedes will have four teams (its own, McLaren, Racing Point and Williams), Ferrari three (the Scuderia, Haas and Alfa Romeo) while Honda will continue with Red Bull’s pair of squads.
One key reason for the McLaren-Renault split was the former’s unwillingness to form a greater alliance on developing other components.
Renault wanted greater collaboration with McLaren moving forwards but its opponent wanted to preserve its independence.
“[The Alpine news] doesn’t change [the situation], we are not desperate [for a customer team], if there a strong partnership opportunity we will do it,” said Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul.
“If it makes sense, it has to be more a partner team than a customer team. We’ve seen that, not going to quote an example again, but a customer brings you nothing, a partner maybe can bring you some value.”