BWT Alpine F1 Team enters a new dawn for Formula 1 in Bahrain with the all new A522 making its official season debut for round one of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi shares his thoughts ahead of an exciting new chapter for the team entering its second year competing in Formula 1.
A new era, new cars, new everything! How do you feel ahead of the new 2022 season?
Laurent Rossi: "It's always exciting to embark on a new Formula 1 season and, this year especially, there are more question marks surrounding the deeply changed technical regulations and subsequent impact on competitiveness and hierarchy. I'm looking forward to seeing all the hard work from Enstone, Viry and the trackside team come to fruition when Esteban and Fernando drive the A522 at full capacity in real racing conditions. There is only so much you can do at testing and this is only when you race that you can really assess where you stand."
There have been some changes at the team over the off-season. Tell us about the new look team going forward?
LR: "Alpine enters its second season in Formula 1 after a relatively promising campaign in 2021. It was fantastic to see so much talent already embedded in the team and from there it's been my mission to refine some of the areas, which needed improvement. I'm delighted to have Otmar [Szafnauer] leading the Formula 1 programme and we look forward to having his input and counting on his 25-years of Formula 1 knowledge in driving the team forwards. We also have stability in our driver line-up with Esteban and Fernando, who have demonstrated a strong will to depend on teamwork in obtaining not only good results on-track but also in working collectively in developing the car towards a similar direction."
How has pre-season testing progressed for the team?
LR: "It's been an interesting and certainly intense couple of weeks for everyone at the team, so firstly, thanks to everyone for their hard work in preparing every ounce of detail on the chassis and engine and having everything ready in time for the car to be on the track at both tests. Testing is always fascinating with different concepts and ideas and extensive run programmes being crammed in to limited schedules. We had some very positive days across Barcelona and Bahrain and we also endured some slightly trickier sessions with the usual testing glitches and gremlins popping up from time to time. I'm very proud of the efforts from everyone in allowing as much preparation as possible. We were able to conclude the Bahrain Test with our two best days of running and over a double century of laps completed. Now, it's time to see what we've got in hand, so bring on this weekend!"
What are the targets this weekend in Bahrain?
LR: "We will only ever control what's in front of us and that's handled in our garage, in the engineering room and at our factories. We're content with our work and preparation for the season ahead and we'll only worry about how the championship reads after Abu Dhabi in November and not after Bahrain next week. Esteban and Fernando are ready to work hard and give it their all on track and that's all I can ask of each and every team member who plays their own part in making this team click. Let's go!
Otmar Szafnauer has enjoyed a busy couple of weeks in his role as BWT Alpine F1 Team Team Principal. With days spent at Enstone and trackside, Otmar is relishing the challenge ahead, as he discusses his first impressions of his job and how the team is preparing for this weekend's first Grand Prix of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season.
Otmar, you joined the team recently, how have your first few weeks been?
Otmar Szafnauer: "It's been a great start to life at BWT Alpine F1 Team even if it's been a very busy first two weeks. I've enjoyed a couple of days at Enstone to start to understand how the factory operates, which has been pleasing for me, especially to see so much talent already at this team. I was also at the Bahrain Test to meet the trackside team and to see first-hand our 2022 challenger. It's an exciting time as we begin a new Formula 1 season and I'm looking forward to meeting everyone in the team and really delving into the work we have ahead of us."
How are you approaching your role as Team Principal?
OS: "First things first, my aim at the moment is to learn as much as I can about the organisation. Alpine is a big company under one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world in Renault and the Formula 1 operation is certainly a treasured and seminal part in that. I'm going to learn about everything at the F1 team at Enstone, Viry and at the track and gain a good understanding on the roles and processes. From what I've witnessed over the first couple of weeks, one thing is clear…this team has big potential. I think Alpine is the best place to work in Formula 1."
What do you want to see from Alpine in 2022?
OS: "We all want to achieve the best possible results this season and show continuous improvement. We've completed a significant milestone already in 2022 with six days of testing completed with lots of learning, lots of data gathered and lots of hard work from everyone at the team to ensure we are as best prepared as we can be for the first Grand Prix of the season this weekend. I want to see every individual giving their best, showcasing their talent and playing their part in making this Formula 1 team become the best it can be. We're all very excited to go racing this weekend and, after that, we will take it a step at a time."
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
OS: "Back in my racing days, I actually won my first two open wheel races. After that, I continued racing until I realised that path was not for me! Still, I was hooked on Formula 1 and every day stepping into my office at Enstone or pushing through the Paddock turnstile trackside is a privilege."
Esteban Ocon gears up for his third consecutive season with the team and fifth Bahrain Grand Prix of his Formula 1 career. The Frenchman has fond memories of this circuit, having scored his first podium here at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix.
How are you feeling ahead of the first race of the season?
Esteban Ocon: "The rule changes mean we have a completely new generation of cars. It will be very exciting to see what all teams bring to the table when it really comes down to it on Saturday and Sunday. Personally, I feel ready mentally and physically. Training was a big focus for me over the winter and we put in the hours in the gym and in the simulator so I can't wait to get back out there and compete. Last year was a roller-coaster of emotions but we hope to carry the good momentum forward heading into the first few races. The objective for this week is clear: hit the ground running and work with the team to extract as much as possible from the new car."
Bahrain is a track you know well. What do you enjoy about it?
EO: "We've spent quite a bit of time in Bahrain the last couple of years. Of course, it is where I achieved my first podium in Formula 1, alongside some other good results in the past, so I have great memories of this track. It is a great venue and an exciting place to host the first race. I like the combinations this track offers, especially the second sector where you have some very technical corners. With the hotter and cooler temperatures, the driving conditions change constantly throughout the weekend so that keeps everyone on their toes, and I enjoy that."
What are your personal goals heading into this new season?
EO: "We need to work very closely as a team to keep learning and improving the car to extract maximum performance week in and week out. My goal is to help the team do that while keeping my head down and performing every weekend. I have a lot of confidence and trust in this team, but we need to stay humble and leave no stone unturned to achieve our 2022 objectives. Ultimately, we want to finish the year higher than we did last year and we have the tools and the people to do just that. We will stay focused and determined and I will always give my best to try and achieve more great results for the team."
Fernando Alonso enters his 20th campaign in motorsport this year since bursting onto the scene as a fresh-faced youngster in 2001. An Alpine podium scorer last year, the vastly experienced Spaniard is eager to kick start his season in a positive manner with a strong start in Bahrain this weekend.
The new season is upon us, so how has your winter gone Fernando?
Fernando Alonso: "The winter has gone well for me. I feel in good physical shape and I had some rest over the winter too. We've been busy in Barcelona and Bahrain the last few weeks and because we've had more time in the car I'm far more prepared. I had very little time to prepare last year so this is already one step ahead. We learnt a lot over the two tests but it's very difficult to know where everyone stands right now. Everyone is saying it but it's true that we won't know until Saturday evening."
What are your early impressions of the new cars and especially the A522?
FA: "The cars are very different to what I've driven before. The bouncing on the straights is quite intense and something we weren't expecting coming into the season. It's challenging the reliability of all the cars but as a team we feel we've got on top of it so far. We're reasonably pleased with the A522 and our preparations over the winter. Nobody knows what fuel or engine modes everybody has been using during testing, so it's impossible to place an order right now. We always want to do more laps as the learnings are endless in Formula 1 but I'm looking forward to Saturday and seeing where we are against our competition."
We've seen porpoising a lot this year. Are the cars harder to drive than ever before?
FA: "Not harder, just different. With any new rule change there is a lot to learn and adapt too. We hope the racing will be tighter and we can follow the cars ahead easier. Again, we won't know until the weekend. I always enjoy a new challenge and getting on top of a new set of regulations."