Andretti dealt new F1 blow with ‘very clear’ message sent from Alpine

Oliver Harden
A side-profile shot of Michael Andretti

Michael Andretti is set on bulldozing his way on to the F1 grid, whether Liberty likes it or not

Andretti have been dealt a fresh blow in their efforts to find a way into F1, with Renault boss Luca de Meo insisting there are no plans to sell the Alpine team.

Andretti have been seeking an F1 entry for some time, yet saw their formal application to join the grid rejected in January by the sport’s commercial rights holders.

Andretti F1 entry route closed as Alpine rubbish sale rumours

Both F1 owners Liberty Media and the existing teams are strongly opposed to the arrival of an 11th team, with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem recently suggesting Andretti should target purchasing an existing team.

Andretti have continued to press on with plans to arrive in F1 over recent months, opening a new team facility at Silverstone and hiring the respected technical figure Pat Symonds in a major coup from Formula 1.

In an exclusive interview with PlanetF1.com (below), Mario Andretti – the 1978 World Champion and father of team owner Michael – expressed renewed optimism that the team will soon find a way on to the grid.

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Alpine’s wretched start to the F1 2024 season, in which the team have scored just two points across the opening eight races, had raised speculation that Renault could look to offload the Enstone outfit, having struggled to make significant progress since the French manufacturer retook control of the team in late 2015.

However, De Meo has rejected rumours that Renault could sell the team, claiming it would be a “stupid” move.

He told Autocar: “I want to make this very clear. There is no way we are going to give up.

“It’s not my style. We will not sell even a part of this thing. We don’t need the money.

“I’ve had people making offers left and right, then talking in the press about it. But we’re not interested. It would be stupid and I won’t do it.”

Alpine attracted a number of high-profile investors last year, with Redwing Capital Partners acquiring a 24 per cent stake in the team, with the £171million deal putting a £706m valuation on the Enstone outfit.

De Meo has denied that welcoming the new investors was a precursor to a full sale, but remains open to investment.

He said of the investors: “These guys are experts at developing sports franchises.

“We’re car people – engineers and technicians – but they know how to take something like the Dallas Cowboys from a value of $1 billion to $8bn in just a few years. They know business and that’s why we need them.

“I’ve never said no to investment, but the thing is they need to bring good ideas.”

Renault won four consecutive World Championships with Sebastian Vettel between 2010 and 2013 as Red Bull’s engine partner, but have struggled to master the current engine technology since F1’s V6 hybrid regulations were introduced in 2014.

De Meo has conceded that Renault have been competing with a disadvantage on the engine side, with Alpine’s underperforming chassis compounding their problems in F1 2024.

He said: “When we began the hybrid era, our engine didn’t perform.

“We had been World Champions with Red Bull but with hybrid, things went wrong.

“Even the engine we developed in 2021 had a 0.2sec to 0.5sec disadvantage every lap. And this year we’ve screwed up with the car.

“If you combine everything, we’re up to 1.5sec from where we need to be.”

Alpine have seen plenty of comings and goings over recent years, with Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri leaving the team at the end of F1 2022 to join Aston Martin and McLaren respectively.

Team principal Otmar Szafnauer and long-serving sporting director Alan Permane were publicly sacked by the team during the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix weekend, with Alpine recently confirming the departure of another team stalwart in Rob White, who played an instrumental role in Alonso’s title triumphs with the team in 2005/06.

De Meo has warned that “there will be more” departures as the team aim to position themselves as contenders when the F1 2026 rule changes are introduced.

He said: “For this year and 2025, we will try with the current set-up, then push to get things right for the next cycle. That’s the challenge.

“But we will do everything necessary to be a competitive team.

“I expect a much better performance from the team. We are not here to be P16. We should be in the mix as often as possible.

“Sometimes you’re second, sometimes you’re fifth, but that should be our level.

“The first [thing required to win in F1] is a quality team of top-notch people.

“The second is racing rage, an obsession to win. The third is collaboration and trust throughout the team, a spirit of cooperation that makes things seem easier.

“Alpine should be one of the teams in F1 with the broadest shoulders, because it has the backing of the Renault Group.

“I don’t think we deserve to be a top team at present, but we’re not in F1 to be tourists so we need to work hard.

“Sure, we’ve made mistakes. It happens. But I think we’re right to put F1 at the core of Alpine, and to paint the car blue to represent a distinctive automotive culture.

“This brand is totally legitimate because it was always in competition. But it can do much better and I don’t want to miss the opportunity.”

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