Renault CEO warns decision on Alpine driver line-up won’t be ‘100% pleasant’ for Alonso, Ocon and Piastri

Fernando Alonso is out of contract at Alpine at the end of the 2022 Formula 1 season.

Renault CEO Luca de Meo says that Alpine have a responsibility to “protect” Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Oscar Piastri amid speculation over the Spaniard’s future.

Alonso will turn 41 later this year having entered his 20th season in Formula 1 this year with Alpine.

After winning 32 races and two championships in his first spell in the sport, Alonso returned following a two-year hiatus in 2021, and scored points on 15 occasions, out-qualifying and out-racing team-mate Esteban Ocon on 11 occasions.

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He also grabbed a podium in Qatar and, despite the Frenchman’s remarkable win in Budapest, finished above Ocon in the Drivers’ Championship by seven points.

The Oviedo-born racer has scored points twice in 2022, but it would certainly have been more had it not been for some wretched luck in the early going of this season, and out-qualifying the 25-year-old twice in six races this year has been plenty proof that he has barely lost a tenth of pace since his championship-winning days.

Yet there are still whispers that Alpine are ready to replace him with rookie and current Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri, who missed out on a seat in the pinnacle of motorsport this season.

Responding to those rumours previously, the double world champion asserted “if I was 25, there would not be this talk,” adding that a driver’s worth should be judged on “performance,” not “age.”

The 40-year-old also stated his intention to race in F1 for “two or three more years.”

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After winning four races in F2 last year on his way to the title, Piastri is one of the most promising young prospects in racing right now, so it is little surprise that he is being linked with a seat, but there may be some confusion as to why Alonso might be in danger of being replaced given his performances.

With three outstanding drivers in the team and only two seats, de Meo admits he has a conundrum on his hands finding a solution that works for all of them.

“We love Fernando very much,” he said.

“We are going to have to find a solution for everyone, because we also have Esteban and Oscar, who are very good. We want to protect our drivers and seek an ideal solution for everyone.

“I think the work that Fernando has done and is doing is incredible.

“We combined the experience of Alonso with the youth of Ocon and now Piastri enters. It is a challenge to find a position for the three of them.

“The solution will not be 100 percent pleasant for all three of them, but we believe that we have to give each one of them an opportunity.”

With Alonso aging, a changing of the guard will naturally take place over time but, given Alonso’s current status at the team as well as his championship history with the Enstone team under their Renault guise, the Italian CEO is aware that the 40-year-old is to be treated with a great deal of respect.

“We have to protect the three drivers and also the one that they say is a super-talent in Piastri,” added de Meo.

“Fernando is 41 years old and Piastri is 21. The moment of change will come, but Fernando is a legend and we so cannot treat him as if he was just another Alpine employee.”

Alpine came into the 2022 season buoyed by the new technical regulations having used an enlarged airbox last season to accommodate their outdated engine.

This year, they developed the engine for the first time in four years, and the anticipation was that they might finally start consistently competing for solid points and even podiums.

This has not materialised, but de Meo maintains that patience is a virtue, and believes that Alpine can still be championship contenders in time.

“Nobody knows when you are going to be champion, you have to see the progression,” explained the 54-year-old.

“Three years to set up a competitive team is normal. We saw that with everyone, including Red Bull or Mercedes, that it takes a while.”

Alonso’s compatriot and former F1 driver Pedro de la Rosa, who raced for Arrows, Jaguar, Sauber and HRT, believes that Alonso has earned the right to choose his own destiny, so is surprised de Meo has not given the 32-time race winner his full assurance.

“I was surprised. The question, for me, is whether Fernando would like to continue, not the other way around,” he said.

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“The plan in Formula 1 is the medium-long term, otherwise there are no results. The way for ‘El Plan’ to work is by having Fernando on the team for several years.”

Alonso’s illustrious career has also seen him race for McLaren and Ferrari, for whom he won a total of 11 races but sadly, never claimed the championship with either the Woking or Maranello side.