Losing drivers to Aston Martin and McLaren hasn’t made rivalry personal – Szafnauer

2023 F1 season

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Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer says there’s nothing personal between his outfit and rivals Aston Martin and McLaren, who lured drivers away from them last year.

Fernando Alonso surprised Alpine by signing a deal with Aston Martin as the summer break began last year. When Alpine moved to promote reserve driver Oscar Piastri in his place, they discovered he’d been poached by McLaren.

The dispute over the latter was especially painful for Alpine, as they announced Piastri as their new driver only for him to deny he would race for them. Formula 1’s Contract Recognition Board ultimately ruled in McLaren’s favour, leaving Alpine to sign Pierre Gasly as Alonso’s replacement.

But asked whether he felt a personal motivation to defeat the two teams who lured drivers away from him last year, Szafnauer said: “No, I want to beat them all.”

Alpine A523 liveries, 2023
Pictures: Alpine reveal A523 in regular livery and pink colours for first three races
“What I want to do is focus on the things that we can control,” he told media including RaceFans at the launch of Alpine’s A523 yesterday. “What we control is the development of our car, both powertrain as well as aerodynamic development.

“Let’s do the best job we can and see what happens. But I don’t think we focus on beating one or two teams. We’ve got to try to beat all of them.”

Alonso appeared to take a swipe at his former team during Aston Martin’s launch earlier this week when he said his new team were not content with lower-order finishing positions. Szafnauer said Alonso had never questioned Alpine celebrating their fourth and fifth place championship positions during his two seasons with them.

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“No, he never raised it,” said Szafnauer. “I think when we did finish fourth, if you look back, he was as happy as everybody else who was part of the team.

“When the year before you’re fifth and your ambition is to move up to fourth, it’s not easy to do. We had to beat McLaren. I’ve been to Woking and you walk by and they have a massive trophy cabinet, so they’re not easy to beat.

“So I think you have to celebrate those successes when you say, look, I want to be top four, I want to be fourth not fifth. I don’t think it’s shameful to say ‘we’ve done it and let’s celebrate’.

“For us, next year, if we can get much closer to third than we were this year, I’ll celebrate that too. If we’re closer and the gap isn’t that big, that means we’re making progress to where we want to go.”

Aston Martin closed their gap to Alpine at the end of last season. But Szafnauer, who joined Alpine from the Aston Martin at the end of 2021, said the real test of his former team’s competitiveness will come next year.

“They’ve made some high-profile hires and they probably bring some knowledge from the teams that they came from,” Szafnauer explained. “But to me, the real test isn’t in ’23, the real test is in ’24 where you’ve got to come up with the ideas yourself. You haven’t brought it from Red Bull or you have brought it from Mercedes.

“Those ideas you put in the car and then thereafter you’ve got to come up with the developments yourself. And to me, that’s the real test.”

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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5 comments on “Losing drivers to Aston Martin and McLaren hasn’t made rivalry personal – Szafnauer”

  1. Alpine is probably better off spending their energy on these driver transfers (Ricciardo’s too) and fixing whatever is making these drivers run for the hills instead, I guess. It’s obvious Alpine isn’t exactly an enticing choice for upper midfield talent, as they only appear to be able to get people lower down the field (or not on it at all) to drive for them for longer than a few years.

  2. The ones who should take it personal are Alpine shareholders and hold Szafnauer responsible.

  3. So he’s been to MTC despite having never been employed by Mclaren.

  4. Sounds like it’s the media taking it personally on their behalf, then trying to stoke the flames.

  5. The media is desperate for making this into a personal argument confronting them with twisted quotes.

    That being said, I do think it will be sort of personal. Whatever issues Otmar had with Fernando they were not trivial. Fernando was all-in with Alpine until Otmar came into the picture and things soured. There were comments made in the last few months from both sides. The failure to curb Ocon’s antics on track added insult to injury. Then Ocon opening his mouth and playing martyr saying he did 99% of the sim work or something like that.

    So yeah, I expect they will be especially eager to beat each other.

    Also you know what else will be personal? Gasly and Ocon wanting to beat each other.

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