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The Ferrari model behind Alpine's F1 push

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The Ferrari model behind Alpine's F1 push
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Enzo Ferrari made no secret of the fact that he only ever set up his road car operation so it could help fund his Formula 1 team.

But whatever the original motivation, it proved to be a brilliant business plan as the road car business and Scuderia Ferrari helped fuel each other's success.

Such a two-way stream is not too far away from the vision that new Renault CEO Luca de Meo now has for the Alpine brand, after giving the green light for a renaming of his French car manufacturer's F1 team.

Since arriving at Renault in July, de Meo has had to make some swift decisions on how to plot a path out of the coronavirus-fuelled financial crisis for the whole Renault Group.

Part of that included an evaluation of the F1 project, and whether or not to commit to another five-year period.

But, just as happened at other teams, the arrival of F1's budget cap allied to a restructuring of its prize money structure to level the playing field, has made it almost a no-brainer to stick around.

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With it now possible for teams to become profit centres, and at worse break-even businesses, there is no longer the concern about them simply becoming a bottomless pit for spending.

That is why, with that state of affairs sorted, de Meo sees that chance to recreate the original Ferrari business model. He wants a virtuous circle of building a successful Alpine brand through F1 success, with the profits of that business then funding the team.

"I think that the interesting part will be the business that we create around the motorsports, to actually potentially finance the motorsports activity," de Meo said during an appearance at the Italian GP.

"My idea is that this thing should be closed itself, into a loop, so that we can secure and give perennity to the commitment and engagement of the group in motorsports.

Lucas de Meo, CEO of Renault

Lucas de Meo, CEO of Renault

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

"It's a hope. We have to make the maths. We have to see what kind of business we have to see for our colleagues here [at Renault]. Also what kind of product we need to put out, how much this thing costs, what is the commercial return on that? But I have done that in the past so I know it can work."

It is a logical plan, and one that fully justifies the potential of Renault's F1 name change. But still, the effort being put to promote the Alpine brand – and give it all the attention in F1 – is not without its consequences.

One of the big ones could be that, after years of Renault investment and the hiring of Fernando Alonso, its most successful F1 driver, the French car manufacturer risks losing any marketing benefit from the future success of the outfit it has spent millions on by handing the spotlight to Alpine.

De Meo thinks, though, that Renault is too big a brand for people not to associate anything that Alpine-Renault achieve with the parent road car company. And he is clear that the opportunities offered by the Alpine rebrand far outweigh any downside of what it means for Renault brand identity.

"We've been around for 120 years," he said about Renault. "So I don't think that a move like that would jeopardise any awareness or likability or perception of Renault.

"I mean it's a big enough traditional historic manufacturer. It is known everywhere. We have many issues and many challenges but I don't think we have a big issue of awareness in general.

"I think this thing is a way to move on, to do something new, and something that is attractive for the public that's very credible.

"I mean of course, before doing these things you kind of test and talk with some people. But every time you're evoking such a kind of story, you see smiles.

"So even the expert data says yeah that's a cool thing and that's something you should be doing. So I feel confident it could be a very, very good story."

Alpine announcement

Alpine announcement

Photo by: Alpine

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Series Formula 1
Author Jonathan Noble