Daniel Ricciardo may not recognise a close companion he’s had for the past two years as Renault officially unveiled its rebranded outfit.
The Alpine era is officially here.
The team formerly known as Renault has rebranded itself for 2021 and while it will still compete with a Renault engine, that’s where the similarities end.
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Alpine launched its car this week, ditching the yellow and black that was synonymous with Renault and going with an icy blue, red and white livery as part of a major makeover, deliberately chosen to reflect both the French and British flags.
The car looks completely different to the one Daniel Ricciardo drove for the past two seasons, before he quit Renault to partner with McLaren.
The team finished fifth in the constructors’ championship last year with Ricciardo, who has been replaced by two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, coming fifth in the drivers’ championship.
French driver Sebastian Ocon came in 12th but enjoyed his first podium at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain where he finished second, and is optimistic the repackaged Alpine outfit can deliver progress in 2021.
He’s also a big fan of the new colour scheme.
“It’s a team with French and British heart, French passion and British grit,” said Ocon.
“I am French but have been involved with British teams the majority of my career — it’s a perfect fit.
“I am hungry to build on the success of 2020. I have that podium feeling and I am keen to get that back.
“We want to aim for more form across all type of tracks.
“We are going to be looking for good results and build on last year’s performance but, most important, we must use 2021 to position ourselves correctly for 2022 which is the big opportunity for us.”
The chassis of the new A521, built in Enstone in the UK which will be the team headquarters, is an evolution of last year’s RS20 with the team saying they have developed and improved “every part that has not been homologated”.
Alonso, who was world champion in 2005 and 2006 with Renault, returns to F1 after leaving McLaren two years ago.
The 39-year-old Spaniard was absent from this week’s launch after undergoing surgery on his broken jaw after he was involved in a road accident while cycling in Switzerland last month. In a statement, however, he said he was happy to be back in F1.
“I’m very motivated heading into this new chapter with Alpine and it’s of course very special to be back with the team that I achieved so much with in the past,” he said.
Luca De Meo, CEO of Groupe Renault, described the new Alpine line-up as a “magnificent duo”.
“Fernando Alonso, he has come back home 20 years after he made his debut with us,” said De Meo. “He’s a two-time world champion and an international star.
“He brings us his speed, tenaciousness, his will, his talent, his experience, his commitment.
“Esteban Ocon is a star in the making. He brings his talent in full ascent as well as his fighting spirit and cool head, his humility and consistency.
“We can expect some beautiful podium finishes from him.”
Alpine also announced that Daniil Kvyat has joined the team as a reserve driver. The 26-year-old Russian has started 110 Grands Prix but lost his AlphaTauri drive at the end of last season.
Pre-season testing takes place in Bahrain from March 12-14 with the season-opening Grand Prix in the kingdom on March 28.
Ricciardo’s ex reveals major makeover