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Exclusive: How Alpine plan to turn a 'rich man's problem' into F1 title glory

Alpine currently have three strong drivers in their line-up, but only two race seats available. In an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com, the team's CEO, Laurent Rossi, explains how the French outfit intend to manage the issue.

Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi admits that the team have a "rich man's problem" on their hands in terms of managing the three drivers in their roster. Since the 2021 season, the French squad's line-up has consisted of two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, who claimed his debut victory in the sport at last year's Hungarian Grand Prix. However, Alpine also have F2 champion Oscar Piastri waiting in the wings as their reserve driver. But with Ocon contracted to the team until 2024 – and Alonso making noises to suggest that he wants to remain in the sport beyond 2022 – the chances of Piastri moving up to a race seat any time soon seem unlikely as things stand.

Rossi: Alpine need to figure out options

In an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com , Rossi explained that the squad will look to assess their options ahead of "silly season" getting underway. "Last year I had even more of an issue," Rossi said, referring to the fact that Zhou Guanyu was also in the Alpine Academy in 2021 alongside Piastri. "The most important [thing] for me was to secure Oscar, and that's why we let [Zhou] go to Alfa [Romeo], and we kept Oscar. "So I already solved a bit of a problem last year, and I still have a problem, obviously, but a rich man's problem, like I always say. "I have a great champion in my car today, or two, even, and I have a future great one as well. We just need to figure out what our options are. "Silly season has not started, we still have a bit of time. We're working hard at that, finding scenarios that will accommodate our interests and theirs, obviously, over time."

Long-term plans for Alpine

With this suggestion of a focus on the future, questions might arise over the team's decision to retain Alonso, who will turn 41 this year. When quizzed on why they are keeping the Spaniard in the line-up, Rossi said: "Because he's so good. That's it." And, when asked the same question regarding Ocon and Piastri, Rossi gave the same response, before joking: "That's the paradox of [the media]. "If I had a sh***y reserve driver, you would ask me, 'Why do you have a sh***y reserve driver?' I have a fantastic reserve driver. You should be praising me for having a stellar roster of guys!" On a more serious note, Rossi explained the team's thinking in regards to Ocon and Alonso. "I keep Esteban because it's a choice I made for the long-term," he continued. "Last year, everyone was telling me, 'Oh, you signed a three-year contract. Why why why?' Well, everyone is doing that, so it sounds like it is fair to build on the long-term. "[With] Fernando, you cannot really bet on the long-term, because [he] himself doesn't know if in three years from now he's going to be fed up with all that stuff. "Or, if his performance depletes, so it's a bit of a one year after the other [approach]."

Future transition between drivers

Rossi hopes that Piastri will remain within the outfit, and eventually take the step up to the race team. As part of this, he sees the more experienced driver alongside the youngster helping him to make the transition. "The whole question is going to be [about how] to handle properly the transition, which I hope we will do one day," Rossi said. "Clearly, I hope that Oscar wins races with us and becomes a World Champion with us at some point. We really hope that, and so we're working at maximising the opportunities for Oscar to learn this year. To drive, potentially this year or the next, even if it's somewhere else [with another team]. "I'm looking at that very favourably, and to bring him back hopefully in the team, so we build it around him. "And it's basically [a process of] Fernando giving Esteban a bit of his own expertise, even though Esteban is already quite seasoned, and at some point Esteban doing the same with Oscar. "Even though they're very strong drivers and talented in themselves, it's nice [to help each other]."

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