MPH: Alonso and Alpine: the challenge facing Davide Brivio


Davide Brivio is set to arrive at Alpine F1 with a reputation for making teams gel. Can he do the same again with Fernando Alonso in the car? asks Mark Hughes

Davide Brivio in the Suzuki pit garage

Photo Milagro/DPPI

Suzuki MotoGP boss Davide Brivio has been confirmed as Racing Director of the Alpine F1 team following Cyril Abiteboul’s departure.

Brivio comes with ringing endorsements from those who witnessed or were part of his work in MotoGP. He is supremely good at getting people to work well together, they say, at getting everyone aligned in the same direction. That’s a valuable skill and a very relevant one for Alpine and the Enstone team.

Relevant, because the departing Daniel Ricciardo did so much to gel everyone together, as recounted a few weeks ago by Abiteboul. “The team has evolved and it’s very much a credit to Daniel who’s been clearly leading the charge of the team and behind him a group of people and a group of mechanics and engineers who are doing a remarkable job on track.” The effect of Ricciardo’s sunny but hugely ambitious presence, the way he’s always pushing for more but in a way that gets everyone around him infected by his push.

“His influence went beyond just driving the car,” said Abiteboul last week. “[He] has been admirable in pushing on and his professionalism has been nothing short of exceptional, also after the announcement of his departure for next season. In this new phase as we transition from Renault to Alpine, the legacy left by Daniel will remain an integral part of our foundation…. Talking about very important stuff with Daniel isn’t that easy because he’s actually quite shy, he’s not going to be very direct about things that don’t work. It took me some time to decode and understand what’s really behind that smile.”

Fernando Alonso in the McLaren pit garage

Alonso: another towering talent – with fewer smiles than Ricciardo

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

In Fernando Alonso, Ricciardo has been replaced by a driver of similar towering ability but a very different presence. “He is probably a bit more aggressive and pushy,” said Abiteboul in an interview with F1. “Fernando is a completely different animal. He will be blunt on the engine, the car, the strategy, the organisation. We know that. Both of them are commanding us to do our absolute best, one by telling you the way it is, the other one through his expectations and the standard of driver he is.”

Alonso has in the past been criticised for being a disruptive and divisive presence. That was certainly the case in his first stint at McLaren, though not his second – not according to those who were working with him there. During that time, his outspoken radio comments about its engine lost him his relationship with Honda, but his day-to-day interaction with the McLaren personnel was never anything other than harmonious.

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Maybe he’s mellowed, but for sure he won’t be replicating Ricciardo’s disposition. What effect that has on the team will be down to those inside it, something touched upon by his former Ferrari colleague Rob Smedley in our magazine last year. “He constantly wants the best and expects 110 per cent of everything and everyone which is extremely demanding. But I think that gets misconstrued as aggression. That’s not the right word. I never saw him angry, never heard him utter a wrong word. But he is an operator who knows his way around a team and what the machinations are. But I found him very motivating. You need people like that, you can’t have an attitude of ‘good enough’ in a top F1 team. He doesn’t want to just take part, he just has that single-minded motivation 365 days a year.

“I think how he affects people depends on the person you’re talking about. What I find demotivating is not winning. So when I heard him saying out loud what was wrong and what needed changing – things he didn’t hold back on, he really calls a spade a spade – even if it was something over which I had responsibility, I welcomed that. Some don’t. Egos come into, I guess, and how thick or thin your skin is. Some take it personally.”

Extracting the full potential from all the people in the team, with a very singular and legendary character in the cockpit, is going to be one of Brivio’s key challenges.