Alpine remains confident it can achieve its ambition of promoting a driver from its Academy to Formula 1 despite a lack of available seats. 

Former Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul previously outlined the French manufacturer’s aim of wanting to provide one of its rising talents with a race seat in F1 by 2021, but Formula 2 frontrunners Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard were both overlooked with Fernando Alonso signing to make a surprise comeback this year.

Zhou and Lundgaard will be joined in F2 this season by another one of Alpine’s Academy stars, with reigning Formula 3 champion Oscar Piastri making the step up to the highest rung on the junior single-seater ladder with Prema. 

Ferrari faced a similar dilemma last year with its Academy talents Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott and Robert Shartzman all impressing in F2. Only Schumacher, who won the 2020 title, has gone on to graduate to an F1 seat for this season with Haas. 

“Obviously the three of them are going into different years in the championship,” Alpine Academy director Mia Sharizman told media including Crash.net.  

“You have Zhou in his third year, Christian in his second, and Oscar as the rookie, so it’s a different way of planning. Having said that, Christian and Zhou and Oscar no less, all are competing step-by-step for podiums, for wins and ultimately at the end of the day, for championships. 

“If you ask me if all of them are top three [in the championship], I will take it anytime. But yes it will bring the situation similar to what the FDA went through last year. At the moment we do feel, in the case of Oscar, there is not so much expectation. We are aware of how he can progress. 

“We have to have a Plan A and a Plan B already for now, and that is something that is in the back of our minds. We think it will be OK for us and we can manage it well to ensure that the three drivers that we have get up there and where they want to be.”

While Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes all share an affiliation with Alfa Romeo, Haas, AlphaTauri and Williams respectively, Alpine currently has no customer team or technical alliance with another team, making it more difficult to offer race opportunities in F1 to its juniors. 

Sharizman insists that although Alpine’s priority is to promote one of its talents to its own F1 seats, it has not ruled out arranging some form of driver-related collaboration with another team. 

“It doesn’t make it any easier for us,” he acknowledged. “Nevertheless, we have identified ways and means to ultimately get the drivers to our seat. 

“Without a power unit supply or without any connection, there can still be a collaboration between other teams. I won’t divulge too much into it, but we focus on what we have, the two race seats that we have. We focus on the Academy that we have and we focus on the tools that we have. 

“We have actively run our F1 test programmes for the Academy for the past three years, and I think that is something is how we can identity and put the drivers in that we believe in. 

“Obviously, going into our team is the priority. But we believe that there is still a collaboration with other teams irrespective of the power unit supply.” 

 

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