Can Alonso’s Alpine really aim for podiums in 2021?

Alpine, the team with which Fernando Alonso will return to Formula 1 This year, he surprised with the ambitious goals that he set this Tuesday in the presentation of his car, the A521
. The whole, through the words of his CEO Laurent Rossi, the Racing Director
Davide Brivio and Executive Director Marcin Bodkowski, insisted that his goal for 2021 was to take one more step forward compared to 2020 and fight for podiums on a constant basis. At a press conference, Davide brivio He qualified these words a bit and assured that the intention is to reduce the gap with the best and always be close to that fight for the podium, which does not mean being on it. However, it is our duty to analyze the real options, today, that the Alpine be it a podium car in 2021, or if, on the contrary, the expectations generated by the firm were too high.

On the one hand, we must highlight the confidence that the French team has in its new car. If they did not truly believe that the car is to fight for podium positions, it would not make sense to have reiterated this statement with such forcefulness in its presentation. And it is that in the F1, in less than a month, those words may come to nothing if the car does not meet expectations with a good performance in the first race of the year in Bahrain. However, the strength of these statements does serve as a great marketing tool, so that the presentation of the car is a showcase of the ambition it has Alpine to turn your project into a winner in a few years.

But to analyze the podium options of this car you have to take into account many factors. The first is that of rivals. What Alpine If you said you want to fight for podiums or be close to the fight for the drawer, it does not mean that later they will achieve it, since no matter how good a job they have done in the factory with their car, nobody has a crystal ball. It is impossible to know the place on the grid that the car can occupy without first knowing the improvement achieved by the rest of the rivals. That will not be known in the preseason tests of Bahrain (from March 12 to 14), since there the teams will hide their cards playing with different engine maps and gasoline loads so as not to give clues to their rivals. Thus, it will be necessary to wait for the first race of the course to know for the first time the real performance of the car. And even so, we will have to wait several appointments to find out if Alonso’s car adapts to all types of circuits and how it goes in a fast corner, slow corner and straight.

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon’s new Alpine A521 for the 2021 F1 season

The foundation for 2020: Renault, on the right track

In order to talk about the possible position that the Alonso’s Alpine on grid, the first thing to take into account is what happened last year. East Alpine A521 It is a pure evolution of the 2020 car (all the vehicles on the current grid are), so how each team finished last season is the basis from which the current cars started.

From there, it can be assured that the 2020 Renault it was a car that could fight to lead the middle zone. And a very positive point was the progress that the brand made during the year with its evolutions. That a set improves whenever it presents new pieces is an unequivocal sign that things are being done well and that the set is on the right track. All this makes the brand, as he said Brivio, you have to set more ambitious goals to continue with your progress, and this involves narrowing your gap with Mercedes and Red Bull and get closer to the podium fight. But beware: that is the will of the brand. But this does not give any guarantee of anything.

Rivals’ predictions

Last year’s car made 3 podiums (two with Ricciardo and one with Ocon), but that is also not valid to say that with an improvement of the car, Alpine You can continue to conquer podiums. Formula 1 is not exact math. As much as you improve the car, achieving that goal depends on whether you have made more or less progress than your rivals. From there, what can be done is to analyze what is expected of the rivals of Alpine in 2021, and there, the scenario of the desired podiums should be complicated for many reasons.

Renault made good use of its options in 2020 to achieve 3 podiums
Renault made good use of its options in 2020 to achieve 3 podiums

Do not forget that last year the podiums were much cheaper than in previous courses, as many pilots like Carlos Sainz. The explanation is simple. Both Mercedes and the Verstappen Red Bull they were the only three favorite cars on the podium. If one of them failed, there would be a great drawer option for the zone leader in that particular race. Yes Ferrari he would not have suffered the enormous slump he had, and if Albon I would have known how to take advantage of Red bullThose 3 podium cars would have been 6. And in that scenario, making a podium would have been more complex and the maximum aspiration for the leader of the middle zone would have been a fifth or fourth place in the best of cases.

That is precisely what is expected to happen in 2021. Another catastrophe for Ferrari is not expected as they are very sure of their improvement in top speed, their greatest weakness of last year, and because they have completely renewed the rear part. of the car. It is also expected that Czech Pérez may be very close to the performance of Max verstappen, something that places him as a great contender for the podium.

Max Verstappen and 'Checo'Pérez must be two constant contenders for the podium with the Red Bull RB16B
Max Verstappen and ‘Checo’Pérez must be two constant contenders for the podium with the Red Bull RB16B

There we must add the great improvement expected from Aston Martin (former Racing Point), which finished the course as the third best car on the track. Aston martin you can improve this year by buying some pieces of 2020 Mercedes without spending the two allowed development ‘tokens’ and they should be in that fight with Ferrari. And to this we must add what can be done by teams that were on par with Renault last year: McLaren and Alpha Tauri.

In this tremendous fight in the middle zone, extremely competitive and even, the podium is very difficult, more still if expectations are met and Mercedes, Red Bull, Aston Martin and Ferrari (6 to 8 cars) may compete for podium positions.

Alpine’s aspirations depend on improvements

Hitting the key with the 2021 regulations is the key to success. This year, the cars have had to implement some changes to the floor of the car, narrower at the rear, which reduces the grip of the vehicle. What’s more, all teams have had to ‘freeze’ their 2020 cars, with only two ‘tokens’ to spend to develop the car parts of their choice, apart from being able to freely upgrade some parts of the car such as the power unit, cooling systems, suspension and all aerodynamic surfaces. The team that has best interpreted the adaptation of its 2020 car to these changes and that has best chosen the areas in which to spend its two ‘tokens’, will progress in the classification.

In that aspect, Renault is expected to have taken a step forward in power and, above all, in reliability
of your engine, its main weak point in recent years. Alpine is confident in this, a key factor in progress on the grid.

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon's new Alpine A521 for 2021
Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon’s new Alpine A521 for 2021

Fernando Alonso has always been cautious

Considering everything explained, it is not surprising that Fernando Alonso has always had his feet on the ground and has not wanted to promise podiums for 2021 in his previous statements. That is why Fernando recently said that his goal was to break into the Top-10. From there to the podium, there is a stretch. Although it is not disposable either. It can happen in a crazy race where a lot happens. What is clear is that if Fernando Alonso has the opportunity, he will take advantage of it, as he always does by making the most of all his cars and race options.. Something similar said his teammate Esteban Ocon at the team presentation: “The car must be in Q3 constantly.”

“I think Mercedes will be in front of everyone, then there will be Red Bull and then I expect a fight between several teams. Alpine will be in that group of teams and it will be interesting to see who adapts best to the new rules. I think it will be very tight, We can fight for a sixth or seventh on the grid, but also for a 15th very easily. Our goal is to fight for the top-10 ”said Alonso, aware that the grid will be extremely tight.

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

Thinking about 2022

The Asturian has always reiterated that Its main objective is to add kilometers of competition in 2021 and work with Alpine to prepare for the year 2022, a course in which a huge change in regulations will be implemented. With those new cars, the grid could change completely. From there, Alpine does want to fight to be at the top.

Another key factor throughout the campaign is to see which teams are fully focused on 2022 and set aside their evolutions throughout the course. This can make many differences between the positions at the beginning of the season and those that can be seen at the end.