Ousted Szafnauer hits out at ‘controlling’ & ‘unrealistic’ Alpine management

Former Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has criticised Renault’s ‘controlling’ management of their F1 team following his dismissal at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Alpine F1 Team, Team Principal. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa
Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Alpine F1 Team, Team Principal. Formula 1 World…

Szafnauer’s departure from the Enstone-based team was announced mid-way through the race weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.

He was ousted with sporting director Alan Permane.

It marked more significant changes at Alpine, with Pat Fry making the switch to Williams, while Philippe Krief and Bruno Famin were installed in senior management roles recently. 

Giving his side of the story, Szafnauer explained to Jason Stein on SiriusXM’s Cars & Culture how the management at Renault were too interfering.

“The parent company wanted to have a lot of control in a lot of areas of the racing team,” he said. “More than I’ve ever seen before. You know, the commercial area, the marketing area, HR, finance, communication, all that stuff reported not to me, but around me, to somebody else in the bigger organisation, and they all act like a navy, and we have to be pirates in order to win.

“So if you say all else equal – the cars (are) equal, the drivers are equal, the powertrain’s equal, your knowledge of the tires is… but what isn’t equal is the fact that a Mercedes or a Red Bull have HR, finance – especially finance now because of the cost cap – all the commercial aspects and communication reporting to Christian (Horner) and we don’t, guess who’s going win? Red Bull.

Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Alpine F1 Team, Team Principal. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest,
Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Alpine F1 Team, Team Principal. Formula 1 World…

“And when you look at it that way, it’s really, really easy to understand. If you don’t look at it that way, then you can convince yourself that, ‘Oh yeah, that’s OK. It’s OK that HR doesn’t report through the team principal.’

“It’s not OK. It’s not OK at all because if you’re going to hire somebody and you’ve got to get a contract out within a day because that’s what we do in Formula 1, you can’t take two weeks. If it takes you two weeks, maybe that special hire went somewhere else. You’ve got to be pirates.”

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps,
Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd…

Szafnauer revealed CEO Luca de Meo was getting impatient with “unrealistic” expectations.

“I think the senior management at Renault, the CEO, Luca de Meo, wants, as everyone does in Formula 1, success instantly and unfortunately, that’s not how it works in Formula 1,” he added.

“So I pointed out to him that it takes time and the process of doing it, what’s required, and having raced for 34 years – and 26 years of it in Formula 1 – I think I speak with a degree of experience when I say ‘this is what it takes to turn a team around’ and they wanted to do it faster than is possible.

“I couldn’t agree to an unrealistic timeline because if you do that, it’s only a matter of time and everyone gets frustrated, so I laid out a very realistic and possible plan and I think they wanted to shortcut that plan with somebody else.”

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