The fiasco surrounding Oscar Piastri’s shock exit to McLaren caused the Alpine F1 Team to question the need for an academy system. Nevertheless, team principal Otmar Szafnauer confirmed that the programme would remain in place, restructured by Academy Director Julian Rouse. Despite rumours of downsizing, they have announced their biggest ever line-up, featuring eight drivers from seven different nationalities. Here’s what to expect from each and every one of them.
By Alexander Studenkov
Jack Doohan (F2, Virtuosi)
A member of the Red Bull Junior Team before moving to Alpine at the end of 2021, Doohan proved himself during his rookie campaign in Formula 2 with Virtuosi, taking three victories and the same number of pole positions to boot.
Sixth place in the standings can be interpreted as a misleading result, given that the Australian was forced to retire on five occasions, with crashes caused by others and a pit stop blunder at Yas Marina costing him valuable points.
During the year however, the youngster was able to experience his first taste of an F1 weekend, partaking in free practice in Mexico and Abu Dhabi. Remaining with Virtuosi Racing in Formula 2 and with prospects of obtaining a reserve driver role for the F1 team, Doohan will have a good chance of fulfilling the goal Alpine set out for him – winning the title.
Victor Martins (F2, ART)
Progressing into Formula 2 as a result of his Formula 3 title, Martins will remain with Alpine and ART, with whom he managed to complete a consistent sophomore campaign despite a strong challenge from multiple hard-charging rookies, amassing two wins and four runner-up finishes en route to the championship.
Being paired up with fellow Frenchman Théo Pourchaire ought to be a challenge, though one which Martins, given his previously close Formula Renault title battle with a certain Oscar Piastri, could be able to overcome.
Gabriele Minì (F3, Hitech)
Having previously rebutted advances from the Ferrari Driver Academy, Minì finally joins an F1 team’s development programme, teaming up with Alpine going into his debut F3 season with Hitech.
This move comes as a consequence of two impressive seasons in FRECA, where the Italian battled against a dominant Prema outfit, finishing second overall.
His speed and consistency are without question, shown by a pair of European Karting vice-championships and the 2020 Italian F4 title, a season in which he beat multiple current F3 rookies.
Nikola Tsolov (F3, ART)
After becoming a dominant rookie champion of the Spanish F4 series with Campos, it was a surprise to see Tsolov announced to be stepping up to Formula 3 with ART Grand Prix for what will be his second year in car racing.
The protégé of former Alpine driver Fernando Alonso is a total wildcard going into 2023, although the promotion from affiliate to academy status is a well-deserved one for the Bulgarian.
Aiden Neate (To be confirmed)
Originally considered as a shoo-in for a seat at R-ace GP in FRECA, Neate is now rumoured to step up to a higher European series after two seasons in British F4.
The son of former British Touring Car racer Andy Neate took two wins last season, finishing sixth in his sophomore season and beating then-Mercedes junior Daniel Guinchard, teammate at Argenti.
Neate has been competing in the FRMEC this winter, scoring a single podium in the opening round.
Abbi Pulling (F1 Academy, Carlin)
With W Series in precarious financial shape, the newly formed F1 Academy championship will be the destination for Pulling, who joins Carlin.
With three podiums from her time in W Series and over a season of experience in Formula 4 machinery, a strong performance ought to be expected from the British driver.
Matheus Ferreira (Italian F4, VAR)
Despite experiencing a difficult season in his first year of senior karting, Ferreira has been given the opportunity to make the step-up to cars, competing in Italian F4 for Van Amersfoort Racing.
The Brazilian graduates from affiliate status, and will need to prove his worth to Alpine in order not to lose his place within the programme.
Kean Nakamura-Berta (Karting)
Another former affiliate to become a fully-fledged Alpine Academy member, Nakamura-Berta completed an impressive season in the senior class of karting.
Driving for KR Motorsport, he was crowned European Champion, one year removed from his shock triumph at the World Championships.
Despite tests for the Prema team in F4, a sponsorship issue looks to have ruled out the Briton, who has both Japanese and Slovakian ancestors, from making his single-seater debut. He will instead remain in karts.
Header image credit: Alpine
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