How Jack Doohan can earn himself an F1 seat from Alpine reserve role
Otmar Szafnauer has laid out the targets Jack Doohan must hit to earn a F1 seat, as the Aussie talent embarks on his first season as Alpine reserve.
Having seen Oscar Piastri join the 2023 grid after a season in the Alpine garage, Queenslander Doohan is hoping to follow in the Melbourne driver’s footsteps. Only this time, Alpine would like the promotion to work out in their favour.
Piastri won the 2021 Formula 2 title but found there was no place for him on the 2022 grid. Instead, he served as Alpine’s reserve before a bitter split at the French team saw McLaren announce a deal for him to partner Lando Norris instead.
Doohan, more than 18 months Piastri’s junior, jumped across to Alpine from Red Bull’s talent pool after finishing the 2021 season runner-up in F3. Last year, the Aussie was in range of an overall podium in Formula 2 before Virtuosi’s reliability woes bit him.
But no matter, because P6 via three poles, a maiden feature race triumph and two sprint wins marks a very solid rookie return. Combining his new Alpine reserve job with another year at Virtuosi, Doohan knows exactly what is expected.
“He’s been part of our Academy for a while now, and will be in the future,” Szafnauer, speaking at the A523 launch after revealing Doohan’s promotion, told Fox Sports.
“The reason we named him is he has a chance of winning the F2 championship. He was a little bit unlucky last year in his first year but he showed some very good promise.
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“He’s talented, fast, and he comes from a talented racing background as well.
“He’s learned in ’22, and I look forward to him winning the F2 championship in ’23.”
That will be no easy task. Although 2022 champion Felipe Drugovich and Williams recruit Logan Sargeant have moved into F1 roles, last year’s runner-up Theo Pourchaire will be tough to stop.
Dennis Hauger, who edged Doohan to the Formula 3 title, will also be gunning for the title. Reigning F3 champion and fellow Alpine academy member Victor Martins steps into an ART seat too.
However, Doohan was a standout performer in F2 last season and the son of MotoGP legend Mick is hotly-tipped for another impressive campaign.
“It would help to win the F2 championship,’ Szafnauer, Alpine’s Romanian-American principal added. “However, there’s a little bit of luck that goes along with that.
“So we’ll be watching him closely and as our reserve driver, he’ll be with the team at every race.
“He’s learning, he’s super-fast and I’m sure, with more races under his belt, his race-craft will improve, too.”
Doohan’s route to the top
Alpine have signed Pierre Gasly to partner Esteban Ocon for 2023, hitching the Frenchman to a multi-year deal as he replaces Fernando Alonso.
All eyes will be on Gasly as he steps outside the Red Bull nest for the first time, exiting AlphaTauri. Big questions remain over Alpine’s new recruit, including his relationship with Ocon. The French duo insist they have patched-up past beefs from junior formulae but the proof will come on track.
Should Gasly sink at Alpine, Doohan must be ready to pounce. Equally, if Ocon is resoundingly beaten by Gasly, Szafnauer could consider making a change – one Doohan could force with a sufficiently eye-catching F2 season.
The Queenslander has looked like the real deal so far and Alpine won’t want to lose another talented Australian. However, a serious challenge for the Formula 2 crown will attract interest from the likes of Alfa Romeo, Haas or even his old Red Bull programme.
For now, Alpine look like Doohan’s best chance of securing a 2024 seat but with 23 races ahead of us, a lot can change.