Otmar Szafnauer is critical of Renault’s desire to control aspects of the Alpine Formula 1 team, saying it was “more than I’ve ever seen before” after leaving his role as team principal.
Alpine has undergone a major overhaul of its senior leadership, with Laurent Rossi replaced by Philippe Krief as CEO, while Bruno Famin was installed as VP of Alpine Motorsports. That preceded Szafnauer and Alan Permane departing during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, and the former team boss said he was being hamstrung by Renault’s involvement.
“The parent company wanted to have a lot of control in a lot of areas of the racing team,” Szafnauer told SiriusXM’s Cars & Culture with Jason Stein. “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 organization, 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.
“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.”
Szafnauer said it was Renault CEO Luca de Meo who was growing impatient at how long it was taking for Alpine to become competitive, despite Szafnauer having only been in the role for 18 months.
“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 said.
“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.”