‘Gloves are off’ at Alpine as Renault CEO hits the ‘reset button’

Thomas Maher
Alpine's Pierre Gasly racing at the Italian Grand Prix.

Alpine's Pierre Gasly racing at the Italian Grand Prix.

Alpine’s turbulent year of change in upper management is Renault CEO Luca de Meo ‘hitting the reset button’ for a rebuild, according to a former team manager.

Alpine are currently under the leadership of interim team boss Bruno Famin, following the ousting of previous principal Otmar Szafnauer heading into the summer break. On top of that, Alpine stalwart Alan Permane also departed the team at the same time after 34 years of loyal service.

Former Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi was also moved aside to concentrate on ‘special projects’, while the team also welcomed new investment from a consortium including Wrexham owners and Hollywood stars Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds.

Luca de Meo is ‘impatient’ and ‘underwhelmed’ by Alpine performance

Appearing on the GP Racing podcast, former Jordan Grand Prix and Cosworth head Mark Gallagher addressed the fallout from the Alpine revolution from a commercial perspective, pointing at Renault CEO Luca de Meo as being eager to set about his vision for the F1 team and the Alpine brand in general as the F1 team’s struggles continue.

“We all like people like Otmar Szafnauer, he has been around for a long time,” Gallagher said.

“Alan Permane, 34 years at Enstone and, perhaps less so, Laurent Rossi, the chief executive of Alpine who has been in the sport for two and a half years and not left a major impact on it other than calling his own team amateurish, which wasn’t a great leadership technique.

“But I think the thing that struck me about the changes is that Luca de Meo has taken the gloves off. He is running one of the largest automotive groups in the world, he has decided to make Alpine the performance brand.

“Between now and 2030, they plan to launch seven Alpine models and this is an incredible target. So they’re planning to try and achieve €2 billion of revenue in three years’ time and, by the end of the decade, €8 billion of revenue for Alpine as a brand.

“So he’s taking that brand from Ground Zero to making it a serious player in the performance automotive sector. The marketing of that is through F1. It is the pinnacle of their motorsport marketing, and he is clearly unimpressed and underwhelmed by the team’s performance. He doesn’t like just where they are. He wants to see them move forward, he’s impatient.

“That may be a problem – we all know that you can’t be too impatient about achieving success in F1 because it does take time. However, he would not be wrong to say that that team seems stuck in the midfield and he’s been watching teams like McLaren and Aston Martin make great strides, never mind the big three, Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes.

“De Meo is seeing a company that he needs to be something of a jewel in the crown of the Renault group, kind of languishing, and he will also be very aware of the fact that both Ford and Audi are arriving into F1 in 2026, so he wants to see some results.”

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Gallagher said he believed that, behind the scenes at Enstone, there has been more support for the changes than perhaps media coverage would suggest, but expressed that he felt the ousted Szafnauer had never really had an opportunity to mould the team in the direction he had been hoping for.

“By all accounts, the meetings that took place in Paris with the team’s leadership left [De Meo] feeling that there wasn’t really anything being offered that gave him calls for optimism,” he said.

“It was all kicking the can down the road, ‘it’s gonna take years’, it’s five-year plans, 100 race plans, ‘it’s going to take time’ – he wanted to see something a little bit more concrete.

“I think the fact that Aston Martin started this season so strongly, and the fact that McLaren then surged into prominence, will have suggested to someone like De Meo that, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to make a step forward in F1 with the right structure, the right people, the right innovations, and the right upgrades.

“I’m not sure that Otmar was ever given a real chance to be team principal at Alpine. He had the title, but there seemed to be a lot of people around him at a very senior level.

“I don’t get the impression that he was allowed to crack on with the job.

“Alan Permane’s departure is an interesting one, we’ll perhaps find out in the fullness of time the background to that.

“Anyone who has been in an F1 team for 34 years is probably reaching a point where they want themselves to do something else. So it may well be that Alan, having had an awareness that there were more changes coming… I’m not saying he volunteered to leave but it may well be that he decided that this timing was right for him as much as the Renault Group deciding to change the management structure.

“What I do feel is important is not what the media or the Twittersphere or fans think about these changes and the rights and wrongs. It’s what the people who work in Enstone think about these changes.

“By all accounts, the hysteria that we saw in certain media coverage is not shared by everyone at Enstone. I think there is a sense that, this time, there is a determination to change the trajectory that the team is on and to try and lift it up.

“In a very short period of time, we have seen a complete change in ownership structure with a very important investor group coming in with a primary focus in the United States, which will become a key market for Alpine in the future. So a new ownership structure, we’ve now seen a major clear-out in senior leadership and, to summarise, I think it’s De Meo pressing the reset button and trying to put in place something that’s going to drive proper change to make them a contender, as opposed to a participant.”

Last week, French media reported that De Meo gathered the staff of Alpine at Enstone and Viry-Chatillon in order to “reaffirm his support and that of the group for the Formula 1 project”, as well as also offering a roadmap for where the team goes from here.

His speech, which L’Equipe claim lasted for 40 minutes and describe as an “electric shock”, allegedly also involved confirmation that Bruno Famin, Alpine Motorsport’s vice president, who has served as interim team boss since Szafnauer’s axing, will now continue in the role on a permanent basis.

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