Force India F1 has announced that Otmar Szafnauer is to replace Simon Roberts as chief operating officer, with the latter returning to McLaren-Mercedes following a year's secondment as part of the Silverstone-based squad's technical tie-up with the multiple world champions.
Szafnauer has a wealth of F1 experience, having acted as operations director at British American Racing from 1998 to 2001 and director of strategy and business planning for Honda from 2006 to 2008, amongst other senior motorsport management positions.
The 45-year-old Romanian will now take over Roberts' direct responsibilities – including the overseeing of factory and trackside operations – and is charged with ensuring maximum productivity from all Force India in-house departments. Furthermore, he will liaise with McLaren Applied Technologies and Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines to strengthen the existing relationship.
“Force India is a professional outfit that is now achieving competitive and highly promising results,” he enthused. “Simon has set a high standard to continue, and I am eagerly anticipating getting stuck into this latest challenge.”
“Otmar was selected by myself in full consultation with McLaren to replace Simon, who has now completed his secondment with Force India,” explained Dr Vijay Mallya, chairman and team principal of F1's latest giant-killers. “We are sad to see Simon go, as he has been a crucial lynchpin in the transition to the McLaren and Mercedes drivetrain, and his dedication and professional stewardship have led the team to achieving its first-ever podium in F1.
“However, he was always on secondment and we knew we would have to let him return to the McLaren fold. We are confident that Otmar, with his wealth of F1 experience, will be a worthy successor and will continue the strong upward trend we have seen in the last half of the season.”
Roberts will return to McLaren Applied Technologies to take up a senior management role, and will continue his involvement with Force India from the other side of the partnership. He will remain in his current position until 2 November. Both men will attend the Brazilian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix to ensure a smooth transition period.
“I am sad to leave Force India, a team that has welcomed me and is now achieving real success,” Roberts reflected. “I am delighted I will still remain involved in the team from the other side of the fence, and look forward to providing all the support that McLaren, Mercedes and Force India require.”