In the world of F1 where stability, realistic expectations, financial backing, and clear strategic vision are considered the pathway to victory, Alpine’s recent decision to part ways with two of its senior figures seems to contradict these norms.
This decision has arisen in the context of the team making successive decisions without any evident comprehensive strategy.
Merely three weeks ago, Alpine’s F1 engine chief Bruno Famin was designated as VP of F1 Flow, with the role of facilitating clear communication between CEO Laurent Rossi and F1 team boss Szafnauer. Famin asserted that the restructuring aimed to streamline Szafnauer’s reporting line, but Alpine’s blueprint for success with its 100-race plan remained intact.
Famin stated, “Our roadmap needs no alterations.”
Yet, a week later, Rossi’s departure was announced – he was reassigned to non-specified ‘special projects’ roles, and his position was filled by Philippe Krief, formerly of Ferrari. This was seen by many as a power gain for Szafnauer, given his fraught relationship with Rossi over the team’s progress this season.
Following the reshuffling of these high-ranking positions, Szafnauer expressed his belief that Renault CEO Luca de Meo would grant him the necessary time to steer Alpine to the forefront of the F1 grid, aligning with the 2026 deadline of the 100-race plan.
“Patience is key,” Szafnauer remarked on whether he believed de Meo would endure.
He continued, “It’s always been a lengthy process. I trust Luca’s word, and he has committed to giving me 100 races to start winning. Sometimes, one needs to take a minor setback to leap forward.
“I have no doubt that Luca will stand by his promise and provide me with the necessary timeframe of 100 races.”
However, in the aftermath of Alpine’s catastrophic Hungarian GP and Szafnauer’s comments, his departure seemed almost inevitable. The lack of agreement between Szafnauer and the upper management over the timeline and strategy to reach the top essentially signalled his end at Alpine.
Permane, an Enstone veteran, faced a similar fate due to disagreements with senior management over the direction and timeframe needed for the team’s advancement.
It was this disharmony over vision, rather than a belief that Szafnauer and Permane were not competent, that led to their departure.
Famin defended the decision by stating, “Our trust never wavered. In these types of projects, it is crucial that the team and its top management align.
“We realized at one point that we weren’t aligning on a few aspects. The competition is fierce, and we know from experience that if we aren’t completely aligned, it’s fruitless to continue together. Everyone must then decide their own path.”
In a nutshell, as confirmed by Famin, he and the car company’s management believe that Alpine can become competitive quicker, and differently, than Szafnauer and Permane had proposed.
Alpine’s conviction that they know best is indeed striking as it contradicts the prevalent belief in the F1 paddock about a realistic timeline and strategy to get things moving.
Szafnauer, with his years of experience, is well aware of these timescales. Alpine has to wait for months before some senior personnel it has poached from competitor teams can join, as fast-tracking their employment contracts can prove extremely costly.
Yet, from Alpine’s standpoint, another factor to consider is Einstein’s definition of insanity: expecting different outcomes from repeating the same actions.
Famin believes it was unrealistic for Alpine to anticipate rapid improvements without a shake-up in leadership. He argues that stability can sometimes be harmful because it prevents a change in direction, something he sees as necessary based on the team’s 2023 performance.
Regarding the loss of experienced leaders at Alpine, Famin said, “Stability can sometimes hinder progress and maintain the status quo.
“If we were closer to the top teams this season, things would have been different. But, to progress and speed up, we need to make changes that disrupt this stability, which is currently counterproductive.”
Famin denies any indication of turmoil within Alpine due to recent events, maintaining that the French manufacturer has a clear vision for the future.
“Our strategy might seem chaotic from the outside, but we have a plan and we’re committed to it,” he said. “The decisions taken are part of a bigger picture and have an underlying logic.”
The plans for implementing this new vision are yet to be determined, with Famin admitting that the course of action is undecided.
“I think our project requires significant changes,” he stated. “But first, I’ll assess the team’s situation in its entirety. Once that’s done, we’ll make the necessary decisions.”
As of now, Alpine’s short-term prospects remain the same, with ongoing development of its chassis. There is still hope that the FIA’s evaluation of Alpine’s Renault engine lagging behind the competition could lead to some equalization. Famin will assume the team boss role, but is unsure if he will stay permanently or appoint someone else.
In the long run, things are far less clear. Alpine’s 100-race plan to compete at the top by 2026 isn’t satisfactory, meaning a significant and immediate response is needed to make strides next year.
However, an experienced paddock observer in Belgium suggested that Alpine’s strategy and layoffs, without a solid vision, does not seem like a pathway to success.
“They might find that these moves have actually set them back half a decade,” they speculated.
It is now up to the new leadership at Alpine to demonstrate otherwise.
“Period of difficulty and turmoil for Alpine F1 team” – Vowles
Alpine and Szafnauer at odds over F1 goals timeline
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Alpine F1 Team Changes
Who recently left the Alpine F1 team?
The Alpine F1 team recently saw the departure of two senior figures – CEO Laurent Rossi and F1 team boss Otmar Szafnauer. Rossi was moved aside to take on unspecified ‘special projects’ tasks and was replaced by former Ferrari man Philippe Krief. Szafnauer’s departure came amidst a lack of unity between his belief on the timelines needed to get Alpine to the front of the grid and how best it could be achieved.
Who replaced Laurent Rossi as CEO of Alpine F1 team?
Laurent Rossi, the former CEO of the Alpine F1 team, was replaced by Philippe Krief, a former Ferrari man.
What was the 100-race plan?
The 100-race plan was a long-term vision outlined by Alpine for achieving success in Formula 1. It essentially allowed 100 races to bring the team to a winning position. This plan was expected to conclude in 2026.
What are Alpine’s plans after these changes in senior management?
The immediate plans for Alpine F1 remain largely unchanged. Work continues on developing its chassis, and there’s hope that the FIA’s assessment of Alpine’s Renault engine being behind the competition can lead to some power unit equalisation. Bruno Famin will assume the team boss role, but it’s still unclear whether he will retain the position or bring in someone else. The long-term vision and plan, however, seem less defined after these changes.
What are the reactions in the F1 paddock to the changes at Alpine F1?
Many seasoned F1 observers view Alpine’s approach and the management cull as a step away from the perceived path to success. Some suggest that these changes, without a clear and firm vision, could delay Alpine’s success by about five years. However, it’s up to the new leadership at Alpine F1 to prove otherwise.