F1: Why Alpine needs to continue their Driver Academy

Alpine F1

After Oscar Piastri signed with McLaren, Alpine may be looking to move on from their driver academy. Here’s why they shouldn’t.

The Oscar Piastri saga was a PR nightmare for Alpine. Following Fernando Alonso’s departure, they announced Piastri would be signing to fill that seat. However, Oscar quickly, and publically, refuted that claim, stating that he would not be driving for Alpine in 2023. Instead, he then signed with McLaren, even though it was questionable if he was under contract with the French team or not. In the end, Alpine lost their promising new prospect, a driver who had come up through the ranks in the Alpine Academy, and to their biggest rivals.

The question then remains, and one that Alpine themselves are most likely asking themselves now, it is cost-effective to have a drivers academy if the drivers that use it are just going to sign with a rival team. Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi was quoted saying almost exactly that, “I’m not sure therefore I want to continue training those drivers, or I’m gonna have to lock them in with a contract that might not be appealing to them.”

The Current State of the Alpine Academy

Alpine’s Academy has been around in one way or another for 20 years. Over the years it has produced numerous Formula One drivers, three of which will be on the F1 grid next season – Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo), Alex Albon (Williams), and Oscar Piastri (McLaren). These drivers are some of the youngest in the series and have promising potential. It would be a shame to see the program that helped elevate them to this level shut down.

And the Alpine Academy still has plenty of talented young drivers moving through the ranks. Jack Doohan, a potential contender for the vacant Alpine seat in F1, & Olli Cadwell from Formula 2. In Formula 3 this past season they had Champion Victor Martins and Caio Collet. Then there is Abbi Pulling, perhaps the most talented driver in the W Series not named Jamie Chadwick. She recently completed a test session for F3. It is clear that just because Alpine lost out on one talented driver, there is still a lot of potential within the Alpine Academy.

Other Notable drivers from the Alpine Academy:

Robert Kubica (2002)

Drove for BMW Sauber from 2006-2009, where he had his only race win in F1. He then raced for Renault in 2010. In 2011, he had a devastating crash outside of the F1 season and almost lost his arm. He then raced with Williams in 2019 and has been a test driver for Alfa Romeo since.

Romain Grosjean (2006-2009)

He raced for Renault in 2009, then for Lotus F1 from 2011 – 2015, and finally for Haas from 2016 – 2020. Grosjean is probably most known for his violent crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020, where his car went through the metal barrier, burst into a fireball, and left him extremely burned. Currently, Grosjean races for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar in North America.

Lucas di Grassi

Winner of the 2005 Macau Grand Prix. Finished second and third (twice) in 2007-2009 in Formula 2. Raced for Virgin Racing in Formula One in 2010. Di Grassi has also finished on the podium at 24 Hours of Le Mans (three times) and the World Endurance Championship (twice). He is a pioneer for Formula E having completed 100 races in the series and was the 2016/17 Champion.

Other Former Academy members

  • Former F1 Drivers – Tiago Monteiro (2005-06), Heikki Kovalainen (2007-13), Jérôme d’Ambrosio (2011-12), Giedo van der Garde (2013), Pastor Maldonado (2011-15), Charles Pic (2012-13), & Jack Aitken (2020).
  • Marta Garcia – Current W Series Driver
  • Jarno Opmeer – Two-time Formula One Esports Series Champion
  • Christian Lundgaard – Current IndyCar driver
  • Sacha Fenestraz – Current Formula E driver with Nissan
  • Oliver Rowland – Formula E veteran driver & finished 3rd in Formula 2 (2017)

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Featured Image Credit: Hasan Bratic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images