Szafnauer: Renault management lacks understanding on how to succeed in F1

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Szafnauer parted ways with the Enstone team following the Belgian Grand Prix last month, marking a major shift in the team’s structure. This occurred shortly after Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi was reassigned by Renault CEO Luca de Meo, being removed from the F1 program.

During the Spa event, Bruno Famin, the interim team principal, observed that Szafnauer and Renault had conflicting timelines regarding Alpine’s five-year strategy to compete for wins and titles.

Szafnauer spoke to SiriusXM about his disagreement with de Meo, criticizing Renault’s management for their unrealistic expectations and lack of insight into what it takes to achieve success in F1.

He commented, “In F1, everyone, including Renault’s senior management and CEO Luca de Meo, is eager for immediate success. Unfortunately, that’s not how F1 operates,” he asserted. “They were looking to accelerate the process beyond what was feasible, and I could not consent to such an unrealistic schedule. Agreeing to that would only lead to widespread frustration over time. I proposed a viable and realistic plan, but they preferred to take shortcuts with someone else.”

Szafnauer emphasized Renault’s impatience with his recruitment strategies, identifying it as an indicator of more profound problems. He explained that he discovered multiple knowledge gaps when he first joined Alpine 18 months ago and was working to fill those by hiring from rival teams. However, the process takes time due to lengthy contracts.

According to Szafnauer, Renault’s inability to comprehend this process meant he was unable to convey his message to the higher-ups. He further stated that certain parts of the organization were at a basic skill level because they were staffed by fresh college graduates rather than seasoned professionals.

His recruitment plans were progressing, but the desired hires would not be available until late 2023 or even 2025. He argued that success sometimes required patience, but Renault’s management lacked this understanding.

Szafnauer also criticized Renault’s excessive interference, stating that various departments did not report to him directly but rather to higher management. He described the parent company as wanting control over many aspects of the racing team, more than he had ever experienced before.

He lamented, “They operate like a Navy, but in Formula 1, we need to be pirates to win. It’s not acceptable, especially in an environment where you have to act quickly. If a special hire takes two weeks instead of one day, you might lose that person to someone else. We need to be pirates.”

Szafnauer’s full interview is scheduled to be broadcast on Thursday evening at 6 pm ET on SiriusXM Business Radio channel 132, on the show Cars & Culture with Jason Stein.

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