Alpine in 2022: Trust El Plan?

2HA875W 11th December 2021; Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: FIA Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix Qualification day: Alpine F1 Team, Esteban Ocon

Alpine gave Formula 1 fans some of the greatest moments during 2021 with a spectacular team display in Hungary, giving Esteban Ocon his first race win, the most memorable.

But the Enstone-based team has changed its structure once again hoping that 2022 will be the difference-maker as Alpine hope to close the gap between themselves and the top teams.

With a three-year old chassis Alpine had the sixth-fastest car on the grid but finished fifth in the constructors championship because Yuki Tsunoda couldn’t match Pierre Gasly in his rookie season at AlphaTauri.

Nevertheless, the race win in Hungary as well as a podium for returning veteran, Fernando Alonso, in Qatar surely gives the team a lot of confidence heading into the new season.

The fact that there are significant regulation changes this year in all areas, with any luck, resets the championship race for everybody. A clean slate is perfect as teams have very little to work on to compare themselves just yet.

Although it’s unlikely that Alpine will compete at the very top just yet, CEO Laurent Rossi is hopeful that the car can at least compete.

He told Motorsport: “There’s not a lot of nervousness, because we’re in a position to gain a lot of ground. There’s a lot of positives for us. Of course we can do worse than this year, but I doubt it.

“And that brings us closer, maybe not to the level of the top teams, but we don’t know. Because we assume that if we gain so many points of aero, kilowatts and electrical energy deployment, we will reduce gap between the best and us, assuming that the best will continue to improve.”

Fans especially want Alonso to perform in a competitive car for a change, which he has infamously failed to do while at McLaren during their Honda partnership, or Ferrari while Red Bull were dominating.

Still, Alonso brought the best more often than not out of these cars, and agonisingly came close to two title wins in 2010 and 2012 but faltered away both times to eventual winner, Sebastian Vettel.

‘El Plan’ is the term for Alonso’s potential title hopes despite being a veteran of the sport, now the longest serving driver since Kimi Raikkonen retired at the end of 2021.

He told ‘UNO mas UNO son TRES’ that “maybe a part of El Plan is not to know exactly what El Plan is” and it is that elusiveness that captivates fans ahead of livery reveals and testing, to begin next month.

The new era of Formula 1 is soon upon us and I for one am very excited.