MARCH 21, 2024

Alpine crisis could be Schumacher's last F1 chance

The current slump at Alpine could be Mick Schumacher's best and last chance to return to Formula 1.

Mick Schumacher, Bahrain GP 2022
© Haas F1 Team / LAT

The contracts of the struggling team's highly respected French duo Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly expire at the end of the year - and both are being linked with the exit door.

Enstone and Viry-based Alpine has badly faltered with its new 2024 car. According to Auto Motor und Sport, it is the only team in pitlane that has actually entered the new season with a car that is actually slower - by 1 tenth - than its 2023 predecessor.

Following the management and shareholding turmoil of the past couple of seasons, it has triggered rumours that Renault CEO Luca de Meo - who was trackside in Saudi Arabia recently - may decide to sell the team.

There are enough interested parties, correspondent Tobias Gruner claims.

Another option for de Meo might be ousting boss Bruno Famin, who was only promoted from the 'interim' position as team principal to the full role mere weeks ago.

In Formula 1, everything happens so quickly, Famin said. You're actually always the interim team boss.

Renault's power unit is known to be the least powerful on the grid, but another major issue is the overweight car - reinforced by 10 kilograms ahead of the new season after initially failing the mandatory FIA crash tests.

Other teams didn't pass at the first attempt either, Famin insists. If you get straight through, it means you're not operating close enough to the limit.

Famin says the drivers are complaining most about a lack of traction, which he insists can be helped by adding more downforce.

We have already laid the foundations on the mechanical side, he said. "Now it's about finding more downforce, which is at the top of our list.

We already have a few good developments in the pipeline.

Whether the car can be improved in time to keep Ocon and Gasly on board for 2025, however, is another matter.

Famin said: We are in no hurry on the driver question, but we would like to extend our current duo. They are our first choice.

The second choice, however, might be Mick Schumacher - the former Haas driver who is trying to revive his name as a good racing driver with Alpine's world endurance championship and Le Mans campaigns this year.

The man who fired Schumacher, former Haas boss Gunther Steiner, thinks 2025 might be the 24-year-old's last chance to resurrect his F1 career.

If it doesn't work out next year, it will probably never work out again, Steiner told Bild newspaper.

"If he doesn't drive in Formula 1 next year, that will be three years without a cockpit. Sure, he was there for two years and is part of the new generation - but it would be extremely difficult if he was completely out of it for three years.

He has to do well in the WEC this season, then it can be a stepping stone, Steiner added.

However, no new drivers were able to break onto the F1 grid this year.

We will see how the driver market in Formula 1 develops, Steiner added. It is not yet clear whether anyone will quit.