“The competitors improved”: Alpine’s new boss explains latest change at the top

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Alpine’s shock decision to part ways with team principal Otmar Szafnauer and sporting director Alan Permane came from the top of the organisation amid frustration over its performance.

A clear sign of that dissatisfaction emerged in April, when then-CEO Laurent Rossi launched a scathing attack on the team’s error-strewn weekend in Baku. That came three races after a misfiring start to the season in Bahrain three races earlier.

A timely podium finish for Esteban Ocon in Monaco – the nearest thing the team has to a home grand prix – wasn’t enough to sway the minds of those at the top that fundamental change was needed.

When the season began, Renault CEO Luca de Meo talked about the team building on its fourth place finish in the championship last year and closing the gap to the ‘big three’ teams who finished many hundreds of points ahead of them. Instead, Alpine has seen first Aston Martin leap ahead, then McLaren.

De Meo indicated his concern over the situation a month ago. “Two years ago we were a distant sixth, really. We fought against AlphaTauri, that was the fifth car but they only had one driver. Last year we finished fourth. This year it’s a little bit complicated at the beginning of the season but it’s getting back into order. I hope we can just continue.”

He also hinted at changes to come on the personnel side. “We have a roadmap,” he said. “It’s progress that you build one step at a time because it takes time to find the people, find the resources to complement our team because our team is slightly smaller than top teams.”

The dramatic shake-up which was announced yesterday began two-and-a-half weeks ago with the news of Rossi’s ousting. Bruno Famin, previously the head of Alpine’s engine division, was appointed in charge of all their motorsport activities.

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Yesterday it fell to him to explain the stunning news that the team was parting ways not only with team principal Otmar Szafnauer – hired just one-and-a-half years ago from Aston Martin – but sporting director Alan Permane. The departure of the latter, who has been with the team for 34 years through multiple changes of leadership and identity, was arguably the most surprising development, indicating a clear difference in vision between those running the team and those paying for it.

Permane and Sazfnauer are on their way out at Alpine
“The reshuffle of the team, it’s a decision of the top management of course,” said Famin. “So it’s not something which has been decided from one day to another and we have been talking for a week. It’s not because I have been appointed, two weeks ago, vice president of motosport, that I started working two weeks ago. It’s already quite a long story and I’m working on it with the top management.”

Speaking to select media including RaceFans, Famin stressed his respect for the ousted pair. “Nobody is saying that Otmar Szafnauer is not good,” he said, “I think Otmar and Alan are very experienced people. They are real assets for a team. We know perfectly that.”

However Famin said those within the team needed to be in total agreement about its approach given the “super tough competition” it faces. “You need to be 100% aligned to have everybody working closely together and this wasn’t the case any more.”

The top management’s dissatisfaction with Alpine’s championship position and car performance was behind the change, he stressed. “The team is not where we expect it to be this year.

“Last year we were fourth on the championship. The idea was to aim for at least the same, maybe a bit closer to the third.

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“What is scoring points at the end is the drivers, of course, and the car, the full car. We need to talk about package. For the time being we have not the best car.

The team has fallen behind rivals McLaren
“We don’t have the best engine, that’s for sure. But we need to think about package. Right now we have the potential to give our drivers a better package and a better environment to help them to make better results.”

Alpine owner Renault returned to F1 as a full constructor in 2016. De Meo arrived in charge of Renault four years later, and the following year rebranded its F1 team after its revived sports car division.

Over this eight-year period, no other F1 team has had a more volatile leadership structure. There are three teams on the grid which have been led by the same person for a decade. Famin, who has assumed the role of team principal for now at least, is the fourth person in that role since the beginning of 2021.

The experience of new names arriving in charge will therefore be a familiar one for Alpine’s teams at its chassis facility in Enstone, UK, and its engine base at Viry-Chaillon in France. Famin said the new organisation has been brought in to drastically alter the team’s approach.

“We have a CEO, we have a sporting director which is Julien Rouse and we have a team principal, which is going to be me. The idea is to have really a new step in our project, develop the mindset, the facilities, everything in order to be able to develop, to get better results from race to race and from one year to another.”

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Whether Famin will remain in charge for the long-term remains to be decided. “I don’t have the answer to that question yet,” he said. “Nothing is excluded.” He would not be drawn on rumours the team will seek to hire former Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto.

Whoever Alpine choose, Famin is of the view that extensive changes need to be made. Exactly what that will look like, he will decide in the coming days.

“I think we need to change quite a lot of things in our project,” he said. “But the first thing I will do is an assessment of what is the full situation of the team, on the factories, on the way the factories are working together, on everything, and once the assessment will be done, we will take the corresponding decision.”

However he made it clear that Alpine is not content to see the likes of Aston Martin and McLaren draw ahead of it.

“We are not where we expected to be and maybe we have not improved enough. The competitors have improved, have shown that they were able to make big changes and we need to go that route as well.”

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2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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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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6 comments on ““The competitors improved”: Alpine’s new boss explains latest change at the top”

  1. Coventry Climax
    29th July 2023, 11:21

    What a mind boggling conclusion that is; the competitors have improved. Such vision!

    I’m pretty sure Szafnauer and Parmane were well aware of it, but they likely banged their heads on a management wall. So the logical decision for the management is to replace them with people that don’t argue with them?

    It is in line with todays world wide trend, but whether it will be successful?

    1. but they likely banged their heads on a management wall

      Do you have any evidence of this? We don’t know what’s happening inside the team, so jumping to conclusion based on nothing is rather unreliable.

      1. One can’t tell for sure. But I’m reminded of the mess Ford made of Jag. How did that end up?

  2. Paving the way for the arrival of the Andrettis?

    First the 200+M investment from an American fund, now this…

    The last half of an already lost season is a good time to start training new members. Just saying…

  3. The only way things could get worse for Alpine/Renault is if they got Elon Musk in to run the team.

    1. Then stay tuned for the next announcement!

Comments are closed.