Szafnauer didn’t get a ‘fair chance’ at fixing Alpine before ousting – Fry

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

Alpine didn’t give Otmar Szafnauer enough time to turn its fortunes around before firing him, the team’s former chief technical officer has said.

Pat Fry was hired by the team, previously known as Renault, to begin work for them in 2020. However he left earlier this year to join Williams.

Around the same time Alpine announced the departure of Szafnauer, who had only joined the team 17 months earlier. Fry believes Szafnauer wasn’t given sufficient time to improve the team’s performance.

“I think at Enstone, as such, the destiny that we were in charge of, we could control, and I think we did a good job,” said Fry. “I’m not so sure that Otmar got a fair chance at fixing the place because to some degree, metaphorically, your hands are tied, I guess.

“But I think everyone there should be proud of what we achieved in those first three years. It’s always a shame walking away from things but I think for me it was time. I’d taken things as far as I could and it was time to put my feet up and sit in my garden.”

The team placed fifth in 2020 and 2021, then rose to fourth in 2022. Fry believes they made genuine progress during that time.

“The first three years I was there we improved Enstone dramatically,” he said. “Year-on-year we built a better car. If you put the three cars next to each other, each one was a massive step and that’s credit for everyone there.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“The various teams were collaborating a huge amount better. I think everyone there should be proud of what we achieved in those three years.”

Fry said he returned to the Enstone team, which he worked for decades earlier, hoping to bring them back to the peaks of success they enjoyed as Benetton in the nineties and as Renault in the noughties. However he believed some in the team lacked the motivation to drive it forward as hard as is needed.

“I’d gone back there with that ‘going back to the place you started your career and try and rebuild it’ [feeling],” he said, “and I think we did really well. From a distant fifth we were a solid fourth.

“But I didn’t feel there was the enthusiasm or the drive to move forward beyond fourth and I decided in the start of March that I want to be pushing things forward. I don’t just want to sit there and not be able to do things. So for me, that was time to stop and move on, really.

“It’s one of those things. I think as a company, they weren’t almost set up to push hard enough. You can say you want to be first but the difference between saying it and achieving it is monumental.”

Fry, who was the first major hiring by Williams team principal James Vowles, is convinced the upper management at his new team understand what is needed to take them back to the front. “James had been talking to me for a little while and it wasn’t until another couple of months after that that I decided to come here,” he said.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“I think the thing that excites me about this opportunity is that the board is fully onboard with what it’s going to take to move this place forward. They’re willing to invest what it takes and support us in building a team. And it’s a nice thing, isn’t it, to rebuild an old British icon.

“It’s a bit like my romantic view of going back to Benetton to rebuild them, really. So it’s another exciting prospect, really. But as I say, James is pushing hard to try and improve this place. So the board is fully behind him moving the place forward. And that’s the thing that excites me, really. We’re not going to be limited in what we can achieve. We’ve just got to do the best we can in the time and move things forward.”

Yesterday Alpine’s interim team principal Bruno Famin refused to address rumours the team’s racing director Davide Brivio, which it hired at the beginning of 2021, is leaving the team. “We do not comment on rumours,” said Famin. “I cannot say anything about that.”

2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix articles

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

4 comments on “Szafnauer didn’t get a ‘fair chance’ at fixing Alpine before ousting – Fry”

  1. I didn’t feel there was the enthusiasm or the drive to move forward…
    I don’t just want to sit there and not be able to do things…
    weren’t almost set up to push hard enough…
    metaphorically, your hands are tied…

    That’s some pretty telling condemnation of presumably the Renault Group… Don’t think I’ve heard a team talked that bad about since the 2015 era McLaren.

    1. Red Bull and Horner have been talking along the same lines since the Hybrid era about Renault.

      When a team starts talking about aiming for natural convergence by the end of a rule set, you know there is an inherent lack of ambition.

      F1 is a commercial for Renault.

  2. new investors + scape goat. Pretty obvious whats going on there. The teams not bad, but they need to bill it above offering in order to get that money. a shame. me thinks. But thats how money works.

  3. I thought they got rid of him because he lost Alonso and Piastri.

Comments are closed.