Alpine torn between ‘fear and excitement’ for 2022

Jamie Woodhouse
Fernando Alonso in action for Alpine in Hungary. August, 2021.

Fernando Alonso in action for Alpine during the Hungarian Grand Prix. August, 2021.

While excited for the opportunities in 2022, Alpine are also sensing a fear of the unknown, says their executive director Marcin Budkowski.

The revamped regulations give several teams, including Alpine, a genuine shot at breaking free from the midfield pack and mounting a challenge at the top of the standings come 2022.

The thought of such a possibility of course is exciting. But at the same time, with no reference point, it is impossible to say the situation will not go the other way and result in a loss of ground to rival teams.

And so it is this exact uncertainty which is giving Alpine mixed vibes about Formula 1’s new era.

“It’s a mix of fear and excitement,” Budkowski told The Race.

“Excitement because the technical team is relishing the challenge because it’s new and there’s freedom. Although the regulations are constrained, you start from almost a white sheet of paper, so it can be quite exciting.

“The fear element is linked to the fact we know what we are doing but we don’t know what the others are doing. So are we missing a clear direction or a loophole? Are we heading in the right direction?

“You’re working in the dark a little bit. We know what we are doing but don’t know what other people are doing, and we will only discover that in February or at the beginning of March next year when all the cars hit the track. And that’s the same for everyone.”

The new rules were set to be introduced for 2021, but ultimately were pushed back a year due to the financial implications of the global pandemic.

The budget cap, however, did come into play for 2021 as planned, and so Budkowski believes this will work in the favour of those teams trying to catch up since the option to spend big on 2022 was taken away.

“There’s one big benefit that came from delaying the technical regs,” said Budkowski.

“Initially, the cost cap and the new set of regs were supposed to start in the same year and that means to develop the car for the new regulations, which obviously is more expensive because you have more research and new parts, that would have been done without any limitation of resources.

“It would have favoured the biggest teams with the biggest resources. Now, the development of the 2022 cars is under a cost cap, which for us is positive because we are not affected by the cost cap [in terms of having to cut back].

“So it means other people would have been spending a lot more than us and now can’t do that. So that’s a positive.”

Fernando Alonso at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hungary August 2021
Alpine driver Fernando Alonso during the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hungary August 2021

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Nonetheless, Budkowski still expects past investment to play a role in the 2022 pecking order.

“There’s opportunity, but equally, when people say there’s a cost cap and everyone spends the same and starts from the same point, well that’s not quite true,” he explained.

“You still have teams that have spent – massively invested in their technical infrastructure, investing in building a team, recruiting people, building the tools, the methodologies they are using to develop the cars. They still have a big advantage.

“Now they are not able to spend as much as they were before and therefore the gap will not increase any further, and with time it should start reducing in terms of the gap between the top teams and the others. But it certainly won’t be immediate.

“So the best teams will continue benefiting from all the work and all the investment they have done in the last few years. But they could also get it wrong if they choose the wrong development.”