After slamming the team for “amateurish” performances at the start of the year, Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi has warned that team principal Otmar Szafnauer is ultimately responsible for the team’s success or failure.
Szafnauer moved across to Alpine at the beginning of last season after leaving the same role at Aston Martin, the team which he had represented in its various guises for over a decade, with Alpine jumping up to fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship at the end of 2022.
But the beginning of this season has been much tougher from their perspective overall, with a series of reliability issues and a collision between their drivers, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, ending both of their races in Australia in April.
While the underlying pace of the car has appeared to have steadily improved of late, Rossi spoke scathingly of the performance Alpine have shown so far this year, particularly given the resources parent company Renault have placed into making their Formula 1 project a success.
He told French broadcaster Canal+ that the start to 2023 had been “unacceptable” from his perspective and the team’s return was “not acceptable.”
While Gasly and Ocon both scored points in Miami, he spoke frankly about the team’s position in the lead-up to the race, and the ultimate responsibility for maintaining last season’s solid showing is down to the team principal.
“He is responsible for the performance of the team – that’s his job,” Rossi said of Szafnauer’s role in an interview with Formula1.com. “There is no hiding here.
“Otmar was brought in to steer the team, through the season and the next seasons towards the objectives that we have, which is to constantly make progress, as we did in the first two years – fifth and fourth – and to get to the podiums and therefore, this is his mission to turn this team around and bring it to the performance that we want.
“We had a team that performed reasonably well last year, got the fourth position which is the best improvement we had in a long time. It showed a lot of promise.
“It’s more of less the same people so I don’t accept that we are not capable of maintaining that.
“Yes, it is Otmar and the rest of his team as Otmar alone doesn’t do everything, but the buck stops with Otmar. It’s Otmar’s responsibility, yes.”
After that P4 finish in the Constructors’ Championship last year, Aston Martin’s significant strengthening has seen them leapfrog Alpine and several other teams to become nearest challengers to Red Bull so far this season – but Rossi is keeping his eyes firmly on maintaining fourth place as a bare minimum target for Alpine.
With millions of dollars in prize money at stake between each place in the Constructors’ standings come the end of the season, the Alpine CEO spoke bullishly about the necessity for the team to at least hold onto that placing this year, as anything lower than that would constitute a “failure” in his eyes.
“I don’t enter a competition and reset my objective because it’s easier,” he said.
“The team managed to get fourth. They have the means to get fourth, more so than others. I want them to be fourth. If they don’t, it’s going to be a failure.
“If they fail by giving 500% best and turning this ship around, there will be extenuating circumstances and it bodes well for the future. If not, it’s the rule of business, there’s going to be consequences. And I won’t wait until the end of the year. The trajectory is not good. We need to fix the mindset of the team ASAP.”