Alpine were put in quite an awkward position after Fernando Alonso announced his departure from the team to replace Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin earlier this year. Team CEO Laurent Rossi, however, remains confident and optimistic despite the events.
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer earlier announced that with Oscar Piastri out of the picture, 14 drivers were chosen to contend for the second seat at the Enstone-based outfit. Rossi has now confirmed that this number has been shortlisted down to six.
Speaking to RacingNews365, the Frenchman said:
“We’ll take our time, [because] we don’t want to make a mistake. There is no rush and we are in a comfortable situation. In all modesty, we have the hottest seat in the paddock at the moment. We are the fourth team on the grid [in terms of the current Constructors’ Championship], so people are waiting for us before to make a decision. We chose 14 drivers, as Otmar [Szafnauer, Alpine Team Principal] previously announced.”
“Now we are down to six [potential drivers]. Some are not yet completely free to make a switch and others may not quite fit in the picture. By the end of September, we should have a good idea on who we want to sign.”
Rossi also spoke about all the drama that went down when Oscar Piastri denied signing with Alpine after the team announced that he would be driving for them in 2023. Expressing his disappointment, he said:
“We will find a driver who will drive the car, and in the end, the car is still the performance differentiator. The disappointment stems from having invested so much and the loyalty you show someone, you don’t expect them not to give it back like everyone else.”
Earlier this month, McLaren announced that Piastri will be replacing Daniel Ricciardo in the team for the 2023 season.
"Car is the most important", say Alpine amidst driver line-up chaos
Laurent Rossi claimed that while it is imperative to have a talented driver, the car makes the most difference in F1. The Alpine CEO expressed confidence that the team is making significant progress in terms of car performance and pace, saying:
“We knew it was going to be some kind of soap opera [when we returned to F1]. We knew there was going to be drama and we are ready for it the next time: our skin gets thicker and thicker, but the project continues. We are making progress and we are moving in the right direction. As I said, the driver is important, but the car is the most important.”
“The gap to Mercedes is half a second and the gap to Ferrari is one second. No driver closes half a second or a whole second. It’s [Piastri] just a little bump in the road. We’ll fix it. In fact, we’ve already closed the book on this subject. What we’ve said about this is, in our view, the truth and clear and simple. We’ll leave this behind us and just move on.”
Alpine stand fourth in the constructors' standings with an 18-point advantage over McLaren.