Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine, Silverstone, 2023

Szafnauer, Permane and Fry out as ‘results don’t meet expectations’ at Alpine

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Alpine has confirmed a swathe of its top staff are leaving the team, following the departure of CEO Laurent Rossi two weeks ago.

Team principal Otmar Szafnauer and sporting director Alan Permane will leave the team after the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, the team announced.

Chief technical officer Pat Fry has also left. Williams has already confirmed the veteran engineer has joined them in the same role.

Szafnauer, who joined the Enstone-based team at the beginning of the 2022 season, and Permane, who has been at the factory since its original guise as Toleman in 1988, will both leave the team by “mutual agreement” following this weekend’s round at Spa-Francorchamps, said Alpine in a statement.

The decision comes one week after Rossi was replaced by Philippe Krief. Szafnauer had told media including RaceFans in Hungary that he had confidence that he would be able to continue in his role with the support of Renault CEO Luca de Meo and pursue Alpine’s 100 grand prix target to become a championship contending team.

“I have no concern that Luca will be true to his word and give me the 100 race time that’s required,” Szafnauer said after the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Alpine Motorsports vice-president Bruno Famin will assume the role of interim team principal, with Julian Rouse, the director of Alpine’s academy, becoming interim sporting director.

Speaking at the team principal’s press conference in Spa, Famin said that Alpine had not been as competitive as their ambitions had wished for. The team originally set a target of repeating last year’s fourth place in the constructors championship and closing the gap to the top three teams. However Alpine recently fell to sixth place in the constructors’ championship having been overtaken by McLaren.

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“The results do not match our expectations, clearly,” Famin said. “We were not on the same line on the timeline of how to reach the level of performance we are aiming for. We are not where we wanted [to be].”

“We were fourth last year,” Famin added. “We know that the top three are very strong but we were aiming to keep that fourth place and maybe to find a little bit more for the third. We are not where we wanted.

“We will work hard with all the teams with the Enstone guys and with the Viry-Chatillon guys in order to extract the best possible performance of our car.

Famin thanked Szafnauer and Permane for their contribution. “They are great people. We really thank them for all that they’ve brought to the team – for a very long time for Alan, 34 years in Enstone. More recently with Otmar, we secured the fourth place in the championship last year which was a good achievement.

“But we were not on the same line on the timeline to recover the level or to reach the level of performance we were aiming. Mutually, we agreed to split our ways and that’s it.”

Following the change, Famin said it will take time to decide on their long-term replacements. “I’ve just been appointed two weeks ago as vice president of motorsport at Alpine. Of course, we have been discussing the topic with the top management for weeks and now I will really assess with the whole team what is the real situation and what will be the plan. I will take the necessary time to do this assessment and we will decide later on.”

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2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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43 comments on “Szafnauer, Permane and Fry out as ‘results don’t meet expectations’ at Alpine”

  1. Alpine getting their Double DNF for the weekend out the way early

    1. ouch, cotd : )

    2. Dang, that is cruel and unusual pun-ishment

      1. Ahah, that’s a good pun!

  2. Pretty extraordinary to cut so many senior people midway through a season (absent any ownership changes). I wonder if this is the last roll of the dice for Renault? If I was an executive, I would be questioning the value of all of this just to finish mid-table very season and never make any clear progress.

    1. Exactly, Renault never seemed too bothered about really making the big investments. With Alpine getting a proper Hypercar program next season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Renault call it quits on this F1 team before the next engines are brought in. All the more so as nobody else seems to want those either.

      1. And if that happens I guess they will be forced to let andretti in, other than wanting massive amounts of money to allow them to join.

  3. Ouch. Permane has been with that team a long time (my phone just tried to autocorrect his name to “Permanent,” as if to underline the point).

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      28th July 2023, 15:24

      no kidding!

  4. Hooray for Hollywood.

  5. I don’t see the point in doing this, or taking such drastic action, in the middle of a season. They might have been better off until the season was over or maybe changing people more gradually. Not everyone in senior management within two weeks.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      28th July 2023, 15:22

      @phil-f1-21 Agreed! At this point, you almost wonder if they’ll keep the drivers or swap them mid-season as well…

      1. They’re both french, so very likely, and not like the issues lies with the drivers, they’re good enough for the midfield car they have.

  6. And all this drama and hundreds-of-millions in spending just to satiate the ego of a disgraced CEO that fled from Japanese authorities in a box.

  7. Creating the conditions for an Andretti buy-out?

    1. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a buyer asks the existing management to sort out all the long term contracts.

    2. +1
      Certainly what I would be thinking, hopefully drivers next.

  8. Enter Andretti.

  9. A totally unexpected departure.

    1. Szafnauer was to be expected, even more so than Rossi.

    2. @jerejj

      Suggest you take your crystal ball in for a service. Usually so good with “predicting” events 😑

      1. For someone who criticizes others for wrong predictions, I surely don’t see a lot of predictions from you.

  10. Not overly surprised, but for this to happen mid-season is unusual. Are the Alpine execs radically changing their strategy to F1, or just positioning the team better for a buyout? Valuations are super high right now, and I can’t see new management revolutionising Alpine enough to justify their existence in the sport.

  11. someone or something
    28th July 2023, 15:36

    Never understood why they hired Szafnauer in the first place.

    1. He did a fairly decent job at Force India/Racing point.. he got more bang for his buck than most team principals in the paddock. He wasn’t great when at Aston, but still a decent option for Alpine. To be fair, he wasn’t terrible at his job.. but he wasn’t capable of really driving a team forwards either. He’s basically like another Fred Vassuer… who will be the next team principal getting fired imho.

      1. Right, he ran a pretty good operation at Force India on what was apparently a pretty tight budget.

      2. @todfod it feels like the staff at Force India probably flattered his management abilities now that we have a bit more perspective.

        For me he always felt awkward at Alpine, his comments more hopeful than factual. Add losing 2 of the better drivers from the team…

  12. Is Fry serving any gardening leave? He obviously saw it coming as he seems to have joined Williams before leaving Alpine. It’s highly unusual for someone in such a senior position to be doing the same for a rival 24hrs later.

    Is it another HR / Alonso / Piastri blunder? Or am I over thinking it? If they sack him he can go, but don’t we normally have a ‘step aside’ at the of the season deal?

    1. If they fired Fry, I don’t see why there would need to be any gardening leave. Maybe to avoid paying him out, they are letting him join Williams immediately.

      1. That’s my thing though. Was it wise to just fire him? I don’t know what he can take with him, maybe nothing. Just seems unusual.

  13. That’s kinda poor form from Alpine to announce this at the beginning of the weekend, leaving these guys to a two-day walk of shame

  14. The rumours suggest that Binotto will be Alpine next team principle. Good luck for them !

    1. Really? That’s interesting!

    2. Indeed, I saw some rumors now I checked on italian news sites, would be curious to see if he can make alpine better, seeing as when he became TP ferrari had a relatively competitive car in 2018, then a couple of bad\terrible years, then competitive again but had terrible pit wall management, which exposed them given how good the car was, so it’s not clear if he was doing well or not.

  15. Electroball76
    28th July 2023, 20:00

    By mutual agreement:
    “You’re fired!”
    “You can’t fire me, because I quit!”

  16. I do hope that Alpine/Renault will call it quits overall and sell the team to someone that really has the drive and desire to compete.
    Even when at their quickest, over the past few years, they never seemed like a team that is willing to take the plunge and put in the effort and money to have any chance at a championship title. They talk a big talk, but just seem hoping to luck into a winning design or a novel idea on the cheap, that would get them success.
    Forever a hopeless mid-pack team.

    That is why, seeing as they are starting to unravel, I hope this is all a step towards selling to Andretti or some other big player, that is willing to go the lengths Renault never was, to actually fight for wins and championships.

    1. In the end, the 2 teams that are more competitive than them that they didn’t expect are aston martin and mclaren and both teams are more ambitious and made serious steps forward, either before the season or mid season, which alpine never did.

  17. No really surprised and I expect that the next announcement will be that the team has been bought out.

    To be honest, my only surprise was that they’ve lasted this long given their unwillingness to actually invest and bring the team up to being competitive.

    Someone said earlier they talk up big, but show no desire to deliver. Their 2014 and 2015 PU was a disgrace and their current effort still is not great.

    I’d be happy to see them go and be replaced by a team that actually wants to be there.

  18. I can’t say I’m surprised to see some heads roll, but where is the investment in the engine? The Renault engine has been behind the other three for a long time. If Honda can go from being the bottom of the pecking order to the top of the pecking order, then there’s no reason Renault couldn’t have done something similar. How do Renault expect their new management to achieve different results if they don’t have better options? Sorry, but I can’t see the new management getting much better results until Alpine get better engines.

  19. So szafnauer was given 100 races to make a step forward but fired after just 1,5 seasons, so assumably something like 35 races? That’s very little, however maybe it’s due to the ceo being replaced few days ago, and maybe this one never trusted snafnauer to do the job.

    1. Can you imagine working your whole life at a team and then they just sack you like that, without giving any reason. Typical French.

      1. You mean like Elon Musk did at Twitter? Typical French indeed.

  20. Alan, get the f out of the way!

    Hey, don’t shout fer!

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