WEC - Interviews Alpine with Lapierre, Vaxiviere and Schumacher
What was it like being the main development driver for the Alpine A424 ?
It was extremely interesting and rewarding. I was also immensely proud to do the first laps of the Alpine A424, which was a great show of confidence and a first accomplishment, given that Alpine's contemporary history in endurance racing was aiming to a premier class return. It was a superb adventure involving much work, as the prototype is technically quite complex. We're pleased with how far we've come, and I'm tremendously proud to have been so involved in the process, but now, I'm only looking forward to seeing where we stand compared to the competition!
What are your impressions of the A424?
One thing's for sure: the car behaves well. It handles well, and we've been able to rack up a fair amount of mileage. For now, I'd say the indicators are green, but the competition remains the ultimate judge of our true potential and performance level. For example, we'll learn more in the first races by studying how it handles in traffic, with the fierce competition in an incredible field where the biggest names in motorsport will battle.
Is there a particular destination that appeals to you, with four new circuits this year?
We represent les Bleus, so we look forward to seeing the fans at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the other races in the championship. Among the other tracks, Qatar promises to be a tough physical challenge for the cars and drivers. On a personal note, I'm also very keen on Interlagos, where I won in the premier class in 2012. I've got some fantastic memories from there, and I can't wait to go back.
How much do you look forward to your fourth campaign with Alpine?
I'm looking forward to this first season in the Hypercar category with the new Alpine A424. We've all been looking forward to it for a long time, so there's a particular buzz about beginning this new chapter in Qatar. I can't wait to get to work and take on our rivals on the track in this great field.
How does it feel to be back in the premier class?
It's a veritable mixture of feelings. I'm happy and proud that Alpine has put its trust in me, but I'm also very grateful and I can’t wait for the season to start. After experiencing the premier class in 2021 and 2022, we all wanted to return to it as soon as possible. It's the most attractive category for us because it allows us to fight for the general classification and outright victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is one of my career goals. I want to be where I can get to the top, and I'm convinced we have everything we need to achieve that over the next few years.
What do you think about the trio you form with Nicolas and Mick?
We're a solid crew with a lot of experience. I don't think we need to introduce Nicolas. He is one of the references in Endurance with his experience, professionalism and talent. Over the years, he's become a real friend, and it's great to have the chance to drive with him. We welcome Mick, whom I got to know during our tests in Portimão and Barcelona. We've got on well, and he speaks excellent French. He is an extremely friendly guy to talk to. His F1 experience is also interesting and enriching. Nicolas and I will try to help him adapt to the world of endurance racing. Lastly, the sister car also features a promising trio combining experience and speed, so we'll all work together in the same direction!
What are your main challenges heading into your first season in endurance racing?
It is no secret that I've never driven with closed cars and in such full grid, and the biggest challenge will probably be managing the traffic. But then, I'm looking forward to gaining experience in this area and broadening my horizons. I am excited for the season to start.
What qualities can you bring to the team and vice versa?
Having a F1 background, I have insights and knowledge that the other drivers do not have, and I am sure this will be beneficial for the development of the team. And on the other hand, the other drivers have different knowledge, different ways and views and sometimes a lot of experience, so in return I will be able to benefit from that. Already now, I find the discussions we had at testing extremely interesting. I think the team can profit greatly from the exchange of information.
What are your first impressions behind the wheel of the Alpine A424?
At first, I admit having a close cockpit was somewhat claustrophobic to me, but I adapted very quickly. And sure, it is a very heavy car compared to the single-seaters which I grew up with, and you drive it differently. But in some ways it reminds me on the F2 car I drove, and I am sure I am going to enjoy driving the Alpine A424 a lot. It is still a very cool and powerful car.