Currently reading: Renault CEO: "We will not sell" Alpine F1 team despite struggles
Luca de Meo says "we are not here to be P16" and "it would be stupid" to back out of Formula 1

Renault Group boss Luca de Meo has vehemently denied that he has any plans to sell the beleaguered Alpine Formula 1 team, either entirely or in part. 

The Oxfordshire-based team has struggled this season and is currently ninth in the constructors’ championship with just two points – courtesy of a pair of 10th-place finishes. That has led to reports in F1 circles that Renault was considering selling the outfit.

But in an exclusive Autocar interview, de Meo says the team’s current difficulties will not bring any kind of ownership rethink. 

“I want to make this very clear. There is no way we are going to give up,” said de Meo. “It’s not my style. We will not sell even a part of this thing. We don’t need the money. I’ve had people making offers left and right, then talking in the press about it. But we’re not interested. It would be stupid and I won’t do it.”

Even so, de Meo refused to minimise the team’s difficulties, acknowledging a number of recent staff changes – including the departure of operations director Rob White after more than 20 years – and ominously suggested that “there will be more”. He agreed that the team has been “improving a little bit” in recent races but believes the root of the problem began three or four years ago, perhaps longer.

“When we began the hybrid era [in 2014], our engine didn’t perform,” he said. “We had been world champions with Red Bull but with hybrid, things went wrong. Even the engine we developed in 2021 had a 0.2sec to 0.5sec disadvantage every lap. And this year we’ve screwed up with the car. If you combine everything, we’re up to 1.5sec from where we need to be.”

De Meo added that he isn’t even sure the recovery plan is securely on track. He compared F1 to the inner workings of a luxury watch: there are 350 intricate elements and any one of them can make a big difference to how the whole thing works. “For this year and 2025, we will try with the current set-up, then push to get things right for the next cycle. That’s the challenge. But we will do everything necessary to be a competitive team.”

Talking about his ultimate expectations, De Meo called for improvement: “I expect a much better performance from the team. We are not here to be P16. We should be in the mix as often as possible. Sometimes you’re second, sometimes you’re fifth, but that should be our level.”

De Meo clearly perceives that the sale of 24% of Alpine’s Enstone facility to an American group, Redwing Capital Partners, in 2023 may have suggested it was about to sell part of the core team, but he explained the deal as a move to gain from the US group’s expertise. 

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“These guys are experts at developing sports franchises,” he said. “We’re car people – engineers and technicians – but they know how to take something like the Dallas Cowboys from a value of $1 billion to $8bn in just a few years. They know business and that’s why we need them.”      De Meo insists there are no constraints on investment at Alpine’s technical centres in the UK – where the team is based – and France, where the powertrains are built. “I’ve never said no to investment,” he said. “But the thing is they need to bring good ideas.”

De Meo said he believes winning in F1 involves three elements: “The first is a quality team of top-notch people. The second is racing rage, an obsession to win. The third is collaboration and trust throughout the team, a spirit of cooperation that makes things seem easier.

“Alpine should be one of the teams in F1 with the broadest shoulders, because it has the backing of the Renault Group," de Meo said. "I don’t think we deserve to be a top team at present, but we’re not in F1 to be tourists so we need to work hard. 

“Sure, we’ve made mistakes. It happens. But I think we’re right to put F1 at the core of Alpine, and to paint the car blue to represent a distinctive automotive culture. This brand is totally legitimate because it was always in competition. But it can do much better, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity.”

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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jason_recliner 6 June 2024
Well somebody's got to come ninth. F1 is a waste of time and money. Unless you're fascinated by marketing.
Peter Cavellini 6 June 2024

Up until 2023 I never missed a race, it was all about the racing, no off track saga,the personal intimate side, now, it's the money, the income and then there's the characters, the team manager, the top Dog numero uno driver, is it fake?, if it's real,why?, all we want is racing.

FastRenaultFan 6 June 2024
Good to know. Hopefully they get back to being at the front again in the next few years.