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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Alpine lacks lead driver in Hamilton and Verstappen mould, says former F1 boss

Alpine lacks a number one driver who can act as a “team boss” like those at Red Bull and Mercedes, according to the Formula 1 squad’s ex-manager Cyril Abiteboul.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Following the replacement of Laurent Rossi as Alpine CEO, team principal Otmar Szafnauer and sporting director Alan Permane have left by mutual consent following last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

With chief technical officer Pat Fry also moving to Williams, the attention on Enstone has been squarely focused at the depleted senior-level structure.

PLUS: Why 'football manager' approach to F1 team principals won't boost Alpine's form

But Abiteboul, who served as managing director of the team under its previous Renault guise until a 2021 rebrand, reckons the team also requires a clearly defined talismanic lead driver.

Speaking to broadcast network France Info, the current Hyundai World Rally team boss said Alpine needed to take inspiration from Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes or Sebastian Vettel then Max Verstappen taking charge at Red Bull.

He said of current drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly: “You mention Esteban and Pierre. Two names is one too many.

“When you close your eyes and think of Mercedes, you think of Lewis Hamilton - even though Nico Rosberg did some extraordinary things.

“When you think of Red Bull, you think of the first cycle around Sebastian Vettel. Then the second cycle around Max Verstappen.

“You need a driver who is also a bit of a team boss, and this power of personification is fundamental.

“At the moment, the grid is very competitive with all cars finishing on the same lap.

“In a while, there will be a near-level playing field. What will make the difference is ambition and determination.”

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault F1 with Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault F1 Team

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault F1 with Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault F1 Team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

When Abiteboul was at the helm, the squad paired Nico Hulkenberg with Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo before placing the Australian alongside team-mate Ocon for 2020.

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Abiteboul added that the current upheaval at Alpine, and absence of a leader, risked the “team spirit and culture”, elements that were now both deficient at the team.

He said: “Every element that is changed potentially puts the team spirit and culture at risk.

“It is these two aspects in particular that are lacking at Alpine.

“The investments have been made, the resources, the group's ambitions, the corporate strategy with the Alpine brand - it's all there.

“When a team has everything, it needs something that transcends it, someone to drive it.

“The strength of an individual who can pull 1000 people together is very unifying.”

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