17 AUGUST 2023
A sale of the chassis side of its Formula 1 operation could be on the cards for Alpine, with Andretti Global the most obvious candidate to take over the Enstone factory, staff and race team, some observers have admitted during the recent Belgian Grand Prix.
Esteban Ocon, Belgian GP 2023
By Luis Vasconcelos
The unexpected and significant departure of senior management from Alpine’s Formula 1 team could be a sign that the French manufacturer has become disillusioned with Grand Prix racing and is trying to find a way out of the very expensive investment made over the past two years. . With global car sales not even reaching 2,000 a month: June was the company’s best month yet as 1,863 cars were sold, the French manufacturer has a mountain to climb to start its road to profitability and having a Formula One team 1 struggling to get into the top ten in qualifying and racing and costing a lot of money to run might not help the process.
The promotions of Bruno Famin to the role of Interim Team Principal and Julian Rouse to Interim Sporting Director, replacing Otmar Szafnauer and Alan Permane respectively, after both were sacked during the Spa-Francorchamps weekend, shows the decision received by the Renault Group. CEO Luca di Meo was so rushed, he didn’t have time to find the most suitable candidates for the job and had to be promoted internally.
There are, however, those who believe that di Meo has become alarmed at the amount of money the French group has invested in the Alpine brand with little or no return and, along the lines of his late mentor Sergio Marchionne, has decided to cut his losses as quickly as possible, he got rid of two high-profile but expensive people and is now looking for a way to keep the Viry-Chatillon engine running in Formula 1 while selling the Enstone base.
Since Alpine is set to supply power units and other mechanical components to Andretti Global, if the American company finally gets the Formula 1 entry it has been seeking for the past two years, the way for them to combine their common interests would be to deliver the side of Alpine’s operating framework to Michael Andretti and his partners and operates in the same way the team did when Genii Capital bought it from Renault in late 2009, handing over control of the team and the operation of the Enstone factory to new owners, but keeping the engine division in French hands, to maintain a presence in Formula 1 which is always useful for developing technology that can be applied to the automotive industry.
As the FIA takes its time announcing which contenders for a Formula 1 seat will win the nod for 2026: Andretti and Hitech are the most talked-about names, but at least eight nominations have reached the Federation, according to inside sources: and with Formula 1 to side with the ten existing teams and not want to do a commercial deal with new entrants: effectively frustrating their bids: acquiring a majority stake in the Alpine Formula 1 team could be the way for Andretti, giving parallel to Di Meo an exit strategy may be looking at the moment.
It’s worth noting that an American conglomerate recently acquired 20 percent of Alpine’s Formula 1 operation, with actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney part of that group, which also included private equity firm RedBird Capital Partners and Otro Capital, for a total investment of 218 million dollars. While this sale valued the team at $900 million, Forbes recently valued the French team at $1.4 billion, so to take control of 51 percent of Alpine F1 Team shares, Andretti would have to pay approx. USD 700 million or alternatively pay USD 420 million and join forces with the group that recently bought a 20 percent stake in the team.
A sale would be the ideal solution for both sides, bypassing Formula 1 entirely and the existing team’s attempt to block Andretti’s entry into the sport, so the next few weeks will be crucial to see which way the Americans go . Future moves are entirely dependent on what the FIA decides on new entries in the next two weeks.
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