The Alpine F1 team has finally revealed the list of drivers representing the Alpine Academy in the 2021 season. The list includes names like Oscar Piastri, Guanyu Zhou, Christian Lundgaard, Victor Martins, and Caio Collet that will be featuring in its driver development program within the current season only.
Alpine Academy, formerly known as Renault Sport Academy, will make three drivers (namely Zhou, Lundgaard, and 2020 F3 champion Piastri) on their list to battle out for the Formula 2 championship in 2021.
On the other side, Martins and Collet will feature in Formula 3 as teammates for the MP Motorsports squad.
How will these drivers line up in 2021?
Zhou and Lundgaard, who claimed the sixth and seventh spot respectively in last year’s F2 team campaign, will stay at UNI-Virtuosi and ART Grand Prix squads they raced with last year. Piastri, being the rookie, will race with the PREMA Racing squad (the same team he won the F3 title last year with).
Zhou feels excited yet nervous at the same time. As per him, “I’m really happy and honored to continue working with such a professional team for another year. I think we showed our potential last year and there is only one target this year. We’re going to keep pushing and try to win the title.”
The year 2020 has been quite phenomenal for Zhou. Besides securing two pole positions, he has also claimed one win and six podiums in F2. Moreover, the current season will be his third consecutive season in the series. According to him, winning the F2 title in 2021 is his biggest aim.
Feeling hopeful for a third successive championship win – Pestri
Pestri, on the other side, seems hopeful for adding another feather in his cap that includes two back-to-back championship wins. “I think it’s a very important year. I have got the momentum at the moment off the back of two championships, so if I can add a third in a row [in F2], I think that’s only going to put me in good stead,” he said.
“In saying that, I’m expecting it to be a very challenging year. I think the grid this year is extremely competitive, and stepping up to F2 in itself is no easy task, so the plan is sort of two years. If I can get it done this year and make the step up to F1, of course, that’s even better.”, Pestri further added
2020 Formula Renault Eurocup champion Martins is also looking hopeful for new horizons in his racing career at the Junior level. “It’s been a long time waiting to race in Formula 3. It’s the next step in the junior categories, so I’m looking forward to starting the season. I aim to create a positive environment around me and work as much as possible with those around me like the Academy, my team, and my family.”, He said.
Having this much talent in your fold sometimes creates challenging situations- Mia Sharziman
On the other side, Alpine Academy director Mia Sharizman finds this as a future challenge for the Alpine F1 team. With three top-level drivers in F2 this year, it would be hard for the Alpine F1 team to create enough spots in their F1 setup. Sharziman talks about the similar challenge faced by Ferrari Driver Academy last year.
They went ahead with five driver lineup in F2, which eventually led to a lack of enough F1 seats thereafter.
“Obviously if all of them are top three [in Formula 2], I would take that, any time. But yes, it will bring a similar situation to what the FDA went through last year”, Sharziman said.
“Being honest with you, we have to have a Plan A and Plan B ready for now, and that is something that’s in the back of our minds. But we think it will be okay for us and we can manage it well, and we can ensure that the three drivers that we have to get up there [to F1], and get to where they want to be.”, she further added.
Regardless of how challenging the situation might get for the Alpine F1 team in 2022, it is evident that they got enough talent on the bench currently. This is something that is surely going to give some ‘jitters’ to their rivals next year.