It was one of the more hilarious Formula 1 memes of the 2021 season when Alpine replaced their name with “El Plan” on their rear wing in Abu Dhabi, but what does it really mean?
Truth be told, no one – including Fernando Alonso, who introduced the phrased to F1– really has a clue what the significance of it truly is.
It does not take a genius of course to figure out that “El Plan” translates from Spanish to English as “The Plan”, but its origin is a little more interesting.
After qualifying fifth for the Turkish Grand Prix last season, Alonso was asked what his plan was by Spanish media, presumably in relation to Sunday’s race.
His response got everyone talking.
“El Plan… you have to wait a few months to know it. You need to believe in el plan for now,” replied Alonso with a smirk.
Many perceive it to be Alpine’s long-term plan to eventually achieve championship dominance in Formula 1.
The French team’s adoption of the phrase caused hysteria among F1 fans, but the 40-year-old is still not entirely sure of its significance.
“It’s a good question, I started to see it too,” he said on the ‘One plus one equals three’ Spanish TV programme.
He did, however, suggest that the phrase, in and of itself, is about not actually knowing what the plan is.
“It’s one of the things that social media networks have now. They started with ‘El Plan’, ‘El Plan’, ‘El Plan’ and I don’t know what ‘El Plan’ is either,” he jovially said.
“It’s a bad thing to say, but I don’t know what ‘El Plan’ is either.
“I think it’s part of ‘El Plan’ that I don’t know exactly what ‘El Plan’ is. You will have to bet. That’s ‘El Plan’…to scare without knowing.”
F1 is going through significant change this year as the aerodynamic parts, the tyres and the engine specification are all altered.
This is the first radical change to the sport since the turn of the hybrid era in 2014, and Alonso suggests that this will be another significant shake-up to which the teams need to acclimatise.
“Normally, the technology of the car doesn’t change much from one year to the next,” he explained.
“But every few years, every six or seven years, there is a revolution and for next year there is one of those big changes.”
Renault owns the Alpine team, and their CEO Luca De Meo sees El Plan as being a vision to compete for the world championship in the coming years.
“If you want to talk about the plan, I tell you we have three to five years to become competitive, to be able to win races regularly and in the end win a World Championship,” said the Italian.
Alpine scored two podiums last year while Esteban Ocon claimed the Enstone team’s first race victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix since 2013, which came under their Lotus guise with Kimi Raikkonen.
This meant that there were 166 races between their last two victories, but De Meo affirms that Alpine’s ambition is still very much to return to the top of the sport.
“Renault’s position is not to be in the middle, we want to be higher. The important thing is to have the attitude of wanting to be in this sport, wanting to invest in this sport.”
Alonso managed the team’s other podium in 2021, with a P3 at the Qatar Grand Prix in November, and out-scored Ocon after the pair had drawn 11-11 in the qualifying battle.
He ended the season 10th in the standings last year, and remains the Enstone-based outfit’s last champion, with his most recent Formula 1 title being won back in 2006.