The Alpine F1 Team are seeking outside investors to fund their sister road car division's future electrification plans – which include battery-powered sports car and SUV ranges – RacingNews365.com can reveal.
Such expansion is contingent upon the Renault sub-brand raising external capital, and hence the search for investment.
The funding strategy was outlined in a capital markets day (CMD) presentation held recently under the "Renaulution, now Revolution" banner. Crucially, the Alpine segment included the clauses "Alpine is set to expand globally with half of its future growth outside of Europe [by] leveraging commercial partnerships and investor support. Alpine is open to capitalise on the financial valuation of its F1 Team assets."
In plain language, this means that the Renault Group are open to investment offers for their wholly owned team, in turn earmarking the proceeds to fund future growth. Asked to comment, an Alpine F1 Team spokesperson stressed that there is "no talk of an IPO or outright sale of the team".
In a written reply the spokesperson added: "[Renault Group CEO] Luca de Meo reasserted the importance of Formula 1 for the brand as a key pillar to achieve this ambition. This plan set clear objectives of growth for Alpine in Europe and internationally.
"Alpine's roadmap presented during the CMD is funded by Renault Group and plans to access commercial partners and investors to accelerate [Alpine's] international expansion."
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According to sources, the investment could take the form of either a joint venture – potentially with another brand such as Geely-owned Lotus, with which Alpine are already co-operating on engineering projects – or via the sale of a stake. The spokesperson would not comment on the internal valuation of the team, nor the maximum size of the stake, which RacingNews365.com understands to be 30%.
A potential business model is that of Mercedes F1, which is owned in equal parts by the Stuttgart company, the INEOS chemical giant and Team Principal/CEO Toto Wolff. Mercedes disinvested from 60% shareholding in 2020 to 33.3% yet continue to benefit from F1's global marketing platform, while INEOS and Wolff have seen their investments soar in value.
In an exclusive interview held in May last year with this writer, Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi outlined the brand's future plans: "We’re going to expand the network, big time. We want to quadruple or even times five that number in the next three, four years.
"The idea is to max out potential of the A110 – which we are far from – and then prepare the markets for the renewal of the line-up of portfolio of new products that will arrive in 2024/25. This will coincide very nicely with rundown of A110 and ramp up of the rest of the of the line-up."
The first half of 2022 saw 1800 units sold off a global dealer network of 122 outlets.
The fact that the Renault Group have publicly revealed their investment plans suggests that a roadmap is in place and that discussions with a number of interested parties have commenced, particularly given the long lead-times required for a completely new product range – usually at least three years, particularly where innovative technologies are concerned.
The history of the team euphemistically known as 'Team Enstone' is chequered, having their roots in the Toleman F2 outfit, which progressed to F1 before selling the team to Benetton in 1985. The clothing brand sold its 1994/5 champion-winning operation to Renault in 2000, although the team title changed again two years later once the operation was ready to win – going on to claim the 2005/6 titles with Fernando Alonso.
After the 2008 'Crashgate' scandal, Renault sold out to Genii Capital, who raced under the black/gold Lotus banner before Renault re-acquired the team in 2016. The name was changed to Alpine for the 2021 season, six months after de Meo took over the helm in mid-2020 following the arrest of previous CEO Carlos Ghosn – who had resurrected the Alpine brand – in November 2018.
Although the spokesperson did not comment further on the situation, the F1 engine division in Viry-Châtillon outside Paris is not thought to form part of the 'Renaulution' investment plan.
Alpine placed fourth in the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Constructors' Championship under the leadership of Otmar Szafnauer – who joined in February this year from Aston Martin – narrowly beating McLaren. The team go into 2023 with the all-French driver line-up of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly after Alonso defected to Aston Martin.
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