What Engine Does Alpine F1 Team Use?

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A lot of eyebrows were raised when the announcement was made prior to the 2021 F1 season that Renault would be rebranding themselves as Alpine. This led many to wonder what changes had been made behind the scenes, and fans may ask which engine the Alpine F1 team uses.

The Alpine F1 team uses Renault engines, made at their long-standing factory in Viry-Chatillon, where they have been making engines since 1976. Alpine are still very much a part of the Renault F1 setup, albeit operating under a different name and without their iconic yellow livery. 

Renault are currently the only engine supplier solely manufacturing engines for their own team and nobody else. In this article we will discuss the changes made in the rebrand, as well as looking further into the successes and failures of Renault engines in Formula 1. 

Is Alpine The Same As Renault F1?

Alpine is the same as Renault F1, just with a different name and car color. Société des Automobiles Alpine SAS, to give them their full name, are a subsidiary of Renault and have been producing sports cars under the Renault umbrella since the 1950s. 

When Luca de Meo took over as Renault’s CEO in 2020, he decided he wanted to give the company’s smaller branches more visibility and recognition. His first move was to rebrand the French manufacturer’s Formula 1 team as Alpine for the 2021 season

On the outside it looked like operations had changed dramatically, with the team dropping their iconic yellow livery, replacing it with the French colors of red, white, and blue. However, the team continue to operate out of Enstone, England, where they have been based for many years.

The cars still use Renault engines, which they source from their factory in Viry-Chatillon, in France. Personnel wise, Alpine kept hold of Esteban Ocon throughout the rebrand, and replaced the already outgoing Daniel Ricciardo with two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso. Overall, nothing much changed behind the scenes, apart from the team’s name and colors.

Does Alpine Make Their Own Engines?

Alpine still make their own engines at the Alpine F1 factory on the outskirts of Paris. Despite the rebrand, the engines are still classed as Renault engines and not Alpine engines. The engine for 2022 is called the R.E.22, referring to Renault. The engines are made solely for the Alpine F1 team.

Alpine/Renault are the only current team in F1 that solely supplies engines to themselves. The other in-house engine manufacturers all supply other teams. For example, Mercedes supply to McLaren, Aston Martin, and Williams. Some would argue that Red Bull also keep things in-house, as they own AlphaTauri, who they supply engines to.   

KEY POINTS

• Alpine F1 team makes their own engines, albeit under the Renault name

• Their engines are made in their factory in France

• They are the only manufacturer without any customer teams

How Powerful Is Alpine’s F1 Engine?

Alpine’s F1 engine likely outputs around 1000 HP, including output from the internal combustion engine, and the MGU-K and MGU-H. The French team believes it is within about 10 horsepower of the leading Ferrari and Red Bull engines, and on par with Mercedes’ power unit.

2022 saw a complete overhaul in Renault’s power unit setup, with changes being made to the internal combustion engine and turbocharger, as well as the way it is positioned in the car. The new engine was well received within the team, with principal Otmar Szafnauer claiming it to be within 10 BHP of Ferrari and Red Bull. Fernando Alonso also approved, calling it a ‘bomb’ of an engine.

The engine features a split turbine, which allows for straightforward routing of the exhaust pipes which helps with power output. This design was first introduced by Mercedes in 2014, and was seen as a pioneering, if not risky move by the German team. It went on to lead Mercedes to their most successful era of all time, something Alpine are clearly looking to replicate. 

Alpine also made changes to the engine’s Energy Recovery System (ERS) which recovers the energy that the car has lost, allowing drivers to use a boost of up to 160 BHP for around 33 seconds per lap.

Reliability Issues

Despite Alpine’s engine showing promising signs in terms of its power output, it experienced reliability issues throughout the 2022 season. Alonso was on his fourth engine just eight races into the season, experiencing major reliability issues in Q3 at the Australian Grand Prix, which he believes cost him pole position.

How Does Alpine’s Engine Compare To Ferrari, Red Bull & Mercedes?

There are very few direct comparisons that can be made between Alpine’s engine and the engines used by the top three teams on the grid, as teams like to keep their cards very close to their chests when it comes to specifications. However, Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer believes the car is within 10 BHP of the leading teams.

Ferrari

Whether this is true or not, we may never find out, although the latest Alpine engine does look very fast down the straights. It isn’t nearly as fast as the Ferrari cars however, and it’s hard to tell if a car’s speed comes primarily from its engine or its aerodynamic setup. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has also suggested their 2022 engine is the best they’ve had for 25 years. 

Red Bull & Mercedes

Red Bull have also overseen upgrades to their engine since switching from Honda. After getting over some early reliability issues, they appear to have made great strides, leading the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship after the 2022 summer break. Alpine is also struggling to keep up with Mercedes, even after their poor start to the 2022 season.

However, Mercedes’ early problems were mainly chassis focused, rather than engine focused. While Alpine have a powerful engine, it has proved unreliable throughout the 2022 season, preventing the French team from mounting any serious assault on the top three. The 2022 season has proved that Alpine still have some way to go before they can become title challengers. 

Renault F1 Engines In The Past

Renault began manufacturing Formula 1 engines in 1976, from their factory in Viry-Chatillon. They are credited with creating the first turbocharged F1 engine, which was seen as a huge innovation in the sport at the time. Renault engines had their first real taste of success supplying for Lotus in the early to mid 1980s, when Mansell and de Angelis were regular fixtures on the podium. 

During the mid 1980s, with Senna behind the wheel of his Lotus, Renault engines were a consistent force in F1, but reliability issues meant that the teams that they supplied for struggled to challenge for World Championships. Renault would put a temporary halt on their work in F1 in 1986, before returning three years later.

The 3.5-Liter V10 Engine

The late 1980s would see the banning of turbocharged engines in F1. This forced the Renault factory to innovate once again, manufacturing the first pneumatic valved 3.5-liter V10 engine. In the early 1990s Renault were solely supplying engines for Williams, a partnership that would grant Renault their first World Championship as an engine supplier in 1992, when Nigel Mansell stormed to victory.

In 1995, engine regulations meant that Renault had to reduce their 3.5-liter engine to a 3-liter engine. This proved to be no issue, as Renault engines went on to power title winning cars for the next three seasons. Renault left Formula 1 again in 1997, although their engines were still being used by various teams. Their success began to dwindle, and teams began to move on. 

The works Renault team won back to back championships in 2005 and 2006 with Fernando Alonso at the wheel. The team used their own engines, the RS25 and RS26, to power them to both championships in each year. 

The RS27 Engine

In 2006, Renault signed a deal to supply engines for Red Bull. However, it wasn’t until 2009 that the new RS27 engine began to see some success as Red Bull won their first Grand Prix in China. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel would go on to win the first of his four Drivers’ Championships the following season, kickstarting a winning partnership between Red Bull and Renault.

Highs And Lows With Red Bull

Renault and Red Bull enjoyed a highly successful partnership, with prodigious talent Sebastian Vettel winning four World Championships in a row. The Red Bull car, powered by its Renault engine, displayed almost unstoppable dominance. This was until the start of the V6 era, where Renault seemed unable to adapt in the same manner that Mercedes had.

The Renault Energy F1-2014 engine was criticized heavily by Red Bull principal Christian Horner. He wasn’t impressed with Renault’s 2015 offering either, originally ending their deal in 2015, before reviving it again in time for the 2016 season. Red Bull eventually moved over to Honda engines in 2019. Renault also had a deal to provide McLaren with engines between 2018-2020.

After McLaren moved back to using Mercedes engines, Renault became a single team engine supplier again for the first time since 2006.

How Many F1 World Championships Have Renault Engines Won?

Renault engines have won a total of 11 Drivers’ Championships and 12 Constructors’ Championships. There have been a total of 134 Grand Prix victories in addition to 158 pole positions from cars using Renault engines. They achieved the most success in the 1990s, when used by Williams and Benneton. 

Their first World Championship came in 1992 when Nigel Mansell won in his Williams. They retained the title the following year with Alain Prost winning almost half the season’s races. The next World Championship winning car with a Renault engine was Michael Schumacher’s victory in 1995. They wouldn’t have to wait long for another, with Williams taking the title for the following two years.

Fernando Alonso managed to win two consecutive titles during his first stint at Renault between 2005-2006. These remain the only two times that a Renault works team’s driver has won the Drivers’ Championship.

Four Titles In A Row

The remainder of Renault’s Drivers’ Championship winning engines were used in the dominant Red Bull cars driven by Sebastian Vettel from 2010-2013, before their eventual downturn during the Hybrid V6 era. It remains to be seen as to whether Renault engines will ever hit the heights of their two main golden ages.

KEY POINTS

• The Renault engine used by the Alpine F1 team is almost on par with its competitors

• Renault engines have won many drivers’ and constructors’ titles over the years

• The Alpine F1 team will continue to use Renault engines for the foreseeable future

Final Thoughts

The Alpine F1 team uses Renault engines. While the rebrand from Renault F1 to Alpine may have looked to have been a major change, Alpine are still run in the same way, operating from Enstone, and manufacturing their engines from the same factory in France.