Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi has denied that Pierre Gasly being French had anything to do with the team hiring him.
Gasly moved from AlphaTauri to Alpine this year to complete an all-French line-up at the team, joining forces with Esteban Ocon.
The former Red Bull man grew up in the same Normandy region as Ocon and Alpine are now a rarity in that both drivers come from the same country as the team originally does.
Naturally then, they have the potential to become the team of choice of France, which has a population of 67 million, and Rossi admitted that Alpine have noticed an increase in hometown support.
“For sure, I’ve noticed a change of mood,” he said on the Beyond the Grid podcast. “At the very beginning, everyone was sceptical because it’s true that Renault has been trying to get back on the podiums for a long, long, long, long time unsuccessfully and it’s been a bit of a tiring factor for people.
“We don’t believe that anymore. I think they start to see the momentum because to get to P4 last year was big progress. We’re getting more and more of the support of the crowd. The sales are through the roof and people are constantly telling us that they love the brand. So I guess something is happening.”
But as to whether wanting the support of their home country had any impact on Gasly’s hiring, Rossi denied that, stating that if Gasly had been from Bangladesh he still would have signed him.
“No, not at all,” Rossi replied when asked if nationality is important to him. “Which is the big, big surprise everyone gets all the time. If Pierre had been from Bangladesh, I would have taken him.
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“Nevertheless, it’s a nice opportunity, we can leverage [being] the French team even though to be honest, I’m very mindful of the fact that we are a British team as well. Enstone is the centre of gravity of Formula 1 at Alpine and it’s not pure French. So it’s a French brand with a British outfit, if you will.
“So we have those two cultures, two nationalities and I’m proud of it so it’s not just French.
“[Gasly’s signing] helps us in a way to convey a bit of the Alpine legacy which is nice because Alpine is a brand from Normandy. So that is pretty cool actually, because we want to keep the past, the heritage and project it into the future. So those two [Gasly and Ocon] are a fantastic embodiment of that right?
“It helps us in France, also to convey a bit of this French team and rally the crowd behind us. Because we’re not exactly Ferrari. It’s not a religion in France, right? You can be from the north or south of Italy and everyone loves Ferrari. In France, we like to have our own little conflict and disagreement.”
“So at the very least, they don’t have to choose now, both of the French drivers are in our team. So we are the French team.”