The big news at BWT Alpine F1 Team in recent weeks has been the investment from our new partners, Otro Capital, RedBird Capital Partners, and Maximum Effort Investments.
From my perspective what it means is investment capital. We can now buy some of the tools that we need in order to be able to develop the car quicker, and then shortcut the finding of on-track performance with some of these tools.
A big part of the financing that's come in through selling 24% of the team is going to just that. We're adding some talented, like-minded people as well, so there's going to be another 50+ hires.
Additionally, they will be helping us on the commercial side to be able to bring in new sponsors, new partners, and to monetise the commercial opportunities that this team has. They've previously bought in to other sports properties, and then helped them to increase revenue. And that's exactly what they want to do here with us. It’s also great to have a Hollywood star like Ryan Reynolds involved - being in the spotlight is never a bad thing!
The underlying pace of our A523 is getting better, especially over one lap. I think we qualify quite well. On race pace we're a little less competitive than over one lap, but we're working on the reasons for that and trying to improve it as well.
We will have a new front wing at Silverstone, followed by a new floor at Spa. The wing is going to add some aero performance. We are going to continue to do what we did last year, which is to often bring upgrades to the car.
With flawless weekends on both sides of the garage I think we have a chance to score decent points, and with both cars, at every race. And that's what we have to do.
Our target was fourth place this year. Even if by the end the points gap is still too big to fourth, if we can be the fourth quickest team, to me that's a success, because we've then moved the car up again relative to our competition.
We've been a little bit unlucky at times, but we’ve still scored well over recent races, starting with Miami.
In Monaco we made good decisions on the pit wall and the drivers qualified well, and they scored decent points, including Esteban being on the podium in third, which was just great.
Afterwards we got everyone in the factory together and congratulated them for what the team had achieved. We had a talk and half a glass of champagne, and then we went back to work. I think it's important to congratulate everyone on their efforts close to the event, so we made sure that we did it straight away.
Then the following week Jeremy Clarkson came to Enstone and gave everybody a beer, because that's what he had promised! There are around 900 of us, so he had to bring a lot of beers. But luckily he had his Lamborghini tractor and a full trailer.
I’d met Jeremy before. He respects this team, we're neighbours, and he roots for us. And he does respect the overall level of F1.
He asked some good questions, and I told him that for us to get that beer there were three big elements. Firstly, he had to promise and deliver, and secondly Esteban had to actually get on the podium, which he did. But thirdly and most importantly the team at Enstone and at Viry had to give Esteban a car that was capable of earning a podium on merit. Which we did, we didn't luck into it.
Esteban qualified fourth fastest in Monaco, and then Pierre was fourth on pace at the next race in Barcelona. Unfortunately, he ended up getting a six-place grid penalty and being blocked out on the first lap. He dropped to 15th, but the pace of the car was still good enough for him to score, which was great.
Pierre was unlucky again in Canada to be blocked by Sainz in qualifying. That was a P6 lap, easily out of Q1. If you start as far back as he did, in 15th, it's difficult in a place like Canada. Esteban qualified P6 and finished eighth.
Esteban finishing seventh in the Austrian sprint was a pretty good result. Maybe we should have pitted Pierre for dries earlier on, but that was the thing that you couldn't really predict. We thought we could squeak him into the points as well, as it turned out the drivers who did pit for dries went by him. Pierre had a good run to 10th in the Grand Prix, and thus we continued our run of points finishes.
There’s been a lot of talk about Red Bull’s domination in 2023, but that’s F1. If I look back at my time at Honda those were the days when Michael Schumacher and Ferrari dominated, and thereafter Red Bull for four years or so, after that Mercedes for seven years. Now it's back to Red Bull again.
We just have to be able to get up there to put ourselves in a position where we too can do that. So that's the challenge, and there's a lot of things that we're putting in place now within our 100-race plan that you require to get to that level.
The capital expenditure equalisation that is now being proposed by the FIA, and which will be voted on in Spa at the next F1 Commission meeting, is a really important step towards helping the disparity in performance to become smaller. It will allow teams to invest more on infrastructure outside the restrictions of the cost cap.
Red Bull already has all these tools that some of the other teams now want to put in place. And if F1, the FIA and all the teams want closer racing then we all have to have the ability to have similar if not the same tools as the bigger teams. I think that's critical, and it will go a long way towards levelling the playing field.
It will help the fans if we can get that equalisation, even though they may not yet realise it, as it will allow some of the other teams to have similar tools to shortcut the process of adding performance to the car. And when that happens, then you get better racing. So that's really what it's about for me.
It’s important to see the bigger picture. In Canada, Liberty and F1 invited the teams to meet with Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL. His big message was what the NFL has done since the mid-60s has been focused on getting the NFL itself to a much, much higher level. And with doing so, every one of the teams that is part of the NFL also went to a higher financial level. That was basically his message.
They have a salary cap, and they also have the draft, where the bottom team gets the best player, and all that kind of stuff. In fact, that's where our Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions concept came from, the sliding scale of the ATR, so that if you finish last, you get more wind tunnel time.
And Roger said to us that yes, F1 has broken through in the US now, but make sure that you focus on taking the next steps to get it to a higher level everywhere around the world, and especially in America. And he said that if you can do that with the entire series, all the teams will benefit too.
Capex equalisation goes towards being able to do that – closer racing, better racing, not having just one team winning all the time. And then if the fans enjoy it more, it raises the entire sport.
Our sport is a little bit different than American football. But the one underlying thing that I think applies to both is get the value of F1 high, and the team values will also follow.