BWT Alpine

BWT Alpine

French manufacturers Renault have entered their own Formula 1 team for the majority of the 21st Century and rebranded it in 2021, renaming it Alpine after their sports car brand.

1970s

They first joined the grid as a factory team late in the 1977 season, entering one car under the name Equipe Renault Elf in five races, none of which they were able to finish. 

In 1978, they competed in every round aside from the first two, again only fielding one car, driven by Jean-Pierre Jabouille, and again not enjoying much success, retiring everywhere except at the United States Grand Prix, where he scored four points.

The final campaign of the decade was more positive as Jabouille was joined by a team-mate for the first time in the form of Rene Arnoux and the two scored four podiums between them, with the former winning on home turf in France.

1980s

The progress continued in 1980 with the pair both tasting victory and the team finishing two places higher in the standings - P4 - with 12 more points to their name.

Jabouille was replaced by Alain Prost for the following season and the Frenchman took the team to new heights, winning three races and claiming three further podiums to give him P5 and them P3 in their respective championships. If not for poor reliability, they could well have won both titles given the pace of the car.

1982 was another step forward with Prost and Arnoux finishing in P4 and P6 in the Drivers’ Championship and Renault retaining P3, consolidating themselves as one of the top teams on the grid.

The next year, they were so nearly the best, narrowly missing out on both titles; Prost finished just two points behind Nelson Piquet and they finished just 10 behind Ferrari. He felt a lack of development was the reason they fell just short on both fronts and publicly said so, leading to him being sacked two days after the season finale.

It proved to be a blessing in disguise for him as he went on to become a World Champion with McLaren while his former team struggled in the next two years before hitting financial troubles and thus leaving the grid at the end of the 1985 campaign.

2000s

After 17 years as an engine supplier for others but nothing more, the Renault F1 team returned in 2002, buying and taking over midfield team Benetton, who had won both championships with Renault power units seven years prior.

Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button for their drivers for their first year back and it proved to be a relatively happy return as they scored enough points to finish P4 in the standings with 11 top-six finishes to their name.

Fernando Alonso replaced Button after that and it quickly proved to be an excellent signing. He picked up eight podiums, including one win, in his first two years in yellow as the team made steady progress, finishing P3 in the championship with 105 points in 2004.

Things were going well, and they got better than even the most optimistic of fans would have imagined in 2005. Alonso won the Drivers’ Championship with relative ease, and he and new team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella secured the team title too.

The dominant team of the era, Ferrari, put up more of a fight in 2006 but again the French outfit prevailed with Alonso beating Michael Schumacher to the title by 13 points and his team scoring five more than the German’s.

The Spaniard left for McLaren after that, perhaps sensing what was to come as Renault dropped out of title contention the following year, finishing P3 in the standings and standing on the podium just once courtesy of replacement Heiki Kovalainen. 

Alonso and the Finn swapped places for the 2008 campaign after the two-time World Champion fell out with McLaren but even his return couldn’t take the team back to the top. 

He did at least manage to win two races, although one of them, in Singapore, was one of the biggest scandals in the sport’s history. It was later revealed by his team-mate at the time, Nelson Piquet Jr, that he had been ordered to crash to help Alonso win; F1 investigated the matter and found Renualt guilty, permanently banning team members involved.

2010s

After their worst season since returning in 2009, Alonso left for Ferrari with Robert Kubica replacing him in 2010, while Vitaly Petrov filled the other seat. It proved to be the team’s best campaign in four years, thanks largely to the efforts of the former who stood on the podium three times and scored more points than all but four teams. 

It also proved to be their last campaign for six years with the French manufacturer deciding to step back from F1 and thus selling their stake in the team to Lotus, who rebranded the team with their name and livery.

As a result of them ceasing to have their own entry and only being an engine supplier again, Red Bull, one of those using their power units, became their works outfit, but a breakdown in that relationship and financial issues for Lotus saw Renault re-buy their old team ahead of the 2016 season.

Given they did so late in 2015 and had little time to prepare the car for the following year, it was unsurprisingly a poor one with them finishing ahead of only two teams and their drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, scoring points just three times between them.

Nico Hulkenberg replaced Magnussen in 2017 and helped the team move up into the midfield, scoring 43 of their 57 points as they climbed up to P6 in the championship.

The German was partnered by Carlos Sainz in 2018 and the two took the team to the very top of the midfield, but they couldn’t stay there for long, being overtaken by McLaren the next year despite signing Daniel Ricciardo in place of Sainz.

2020s

They finished in P5 again in 2020 but it was a much better year with Ricciardo scoring their first podium in a decade before he and Esteban Ocon secured two more, giving them their highest points-tally since 2006.

Renault then became Alpine ahead of the 2021 campaign which saw Alonso return again and stand on the podium and Ocon give the French outfit their first win since 2008 as they finished P5 for the third straight year.

They head into 2022 aiming higher than that, stating that, with new regulations, they plan to be fighting for titles again by 2026 at the latest.

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