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Inside the Alpine Formula 1 Team’s Garage

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Boardroom takes you behind the scenes with the Alpine F1 team ahead of the 2023 F1 Miami Grand Prix.

On a hot and sticky Friday afternoon in Miami, members of the media are led inside an open garage bordered by a large BWT Alpine logo in the Formula 1 team’s signature shade of cerulean blue.

Just inside the garage on either side of the entryway are five long rows of black headsets. Each is labeled with the name of one of the many crew members that help Alpine’s lead drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon succeed on the track. Take a left turn along a wall of black glossy fiberglass dividers and you’ll pass covers on tires with pressure gauges and their corresponding places on the car, like front left or back right.

We’ve arrived at a viewing area right outside pit row, inside the Alpine garage during two 15-minute sessions of the three-hour Friday practice window. It’s the last chance for all 10 teams to adjust their cars before Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race.

@boardroom_ A very fast look inside the Alpine F1 Racing team’s garage. #alpinef1 #f1 #formula1 #f1tiktok ♬ original sound – Boardroom

“Once you go into qualifying, you can’t change the car anymore. So you have three hours to optimize the car setup,” Alpine Principal Otmar Szafnauer told Boardroom. “It’s supremely important.”

As cars whiz onto the track to get practice laps in, a crew of Alpine mechanics works on Ocon’s car. There are four large screens along each end of the garage, with the teams’ two cars divided by an area in the middle. There, Alpine mechanics and engineers stand around another series of screens, monitoring every conceivable metric. The goal is to optimize each car in every way.

Each media member is given a headset with every team’s radio feed — it’s like being a fly on the wall during the filming for a Drive To Survive episode. As the Haas team discusses an incident involving driver Niko Hülkenberg, things remain busy, but calm.

Gasly’s car is pulled into the garage following some practice laps.

Roughly a half dozen Alpine crew members operate on each car with the deafening cacophony you’d expect in the most technical body shop you’ve ever seen. Another half dozen or so are looking at the aforementioned screens, assessing how each tweak impacts the rest of the vehicle. Others buzz in and out of the garage as crew members monitor equipment, clean the car, and even play around with dangerously cold containers of dry ice to cool the brakes labeled left and right. 

“We start off with a certain ride height where we think we’re comfortable, and it’s no secret that the lower you go, the faster you go,” Szafnauer said. “So we started adjusting ride height and with that, you adjust wing level. Sometimes spring rate, sometimes damping ratio, and sometimes tire pressure as well.”

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One team staffer referred to what media saw as “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of the vast number of people tasked with optimizing the cars prior to qualifying. There were even more engineers in a back room, another 10-15 back at the team hospitality area, and even more in Alpine’s UK-based factory working late into the night. In total, several dozen engineers worked to avoid what happened to Alpine in the prior week’s Grand Prix in Azerbaijan.

“At the last race, as you probably saw, we did three fast laps,” Szafnauer said. “And because of only having three fast laps, we didn’t optimize the car. We went into qualifying where you can’t change it anymore and we were on the back.”

A poor practice session led to disappointing qualifying results, with Ocon qualifying 12th and Gasly 19th in Baku. They finished 14th and 15th in the race, leading to no points and the desire to rebound in Miami.

Whatever happened during that three-hour Miami practice session, things were working for Alpine. Gasly qualified fifth and Octon eighth, putting Alpine in strong position for Sunday’s race and inspiring optimism within the team. Alpine scored points with both its drivers in Miami — Gasly eighth and Ocon ninth — and followed that up with an even better weekend in Monaco.

There, the team got its first podium finish with Ocon finishing third and Gasly coming in seventh, propelling the team past McLaren into fifth in the constructors standings heading into this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. Miami turned out to be quite a successful weekend for the army of Alpine team members tasked with adjusting the two cars so that practice comes as close as possible to perfection.

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