Former team boss: Alpine lacking leading driver in the Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen mould

Michelle Foster
Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly sat next to the A523. February 2023.

Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly sat next to the A523. February 2023.

On top of Alpine’s self-induced leadership problems, Cyril Abiteboul believes his former team is also lacking a leading driver in the mould of Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen.

Alpine went into the summer break in a state of disarray after the team shocked the paddock when they announced the departures of team principal Otmar Szafnauer and sporting director Alan Permane, both ousted from the team, while also losing technical director Pat Fry to Williams on the same day.

Szafnauer and Permane were replaced by interim people with Bruno Famin stepping up as team boss, despite also holding down the VP job at Alpine Motorsport, while Alpine Academy director Julian Rouse is the new sporting director, but only for now.

Alpine don’t have leaders in Gasly and Ocon, says Abiteboul

And in the midst of all the upheaval, Abiteboul is worried that Alpine doesn’t have a driver strong enough to lead them.

Last season, losing double World Champion Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin after one too many comments from now-ousted team boss Szafnauer about his age being the reason they’d only offer him a one-year extension, Alpine signed Pierre Gasly as Esteban Ocon’s new team-mate.

But while it’s fair to say their rivalry from yesteryear hasn’t blighted the team’s season, neither has their partnership strengthened it according to Abiteboul.

“You mention Esteban and Pierre,” he told France Info. “Two names is one too many.

“When you close your eyes and think of Mercedes, you think of Lewis Hamilton, even though Nico Rosberg did some extraordinary things.

“When you think of Red Bull, you think of the first cycle around Sebastian Vettel, then the second cycle around Max Verstappen.

“There needs to be a driver who is also a bit of a team boss, the strength of personification is fundamental. At the moment, the grid is very competitive with all cars finishing on the same lap.

“In a while, there will be a near-level playing field and what will make the difference is ambition, determination.” recommends

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Alpine ‘team spirit and culture at risk’

Abiteboul left Alpine in 2021, axed from his role as managing director, and along with him went 15 other key personnel.

He believes every time teams make such massive changes, they risk the team’s “spirit and culture”. And those, he reckons, are two things Alpine are lacking.

“Every element that is changed potentially puts the team spirit and culture at risk. It is these two aspects in particular that are lacking at Alpine,” he said.

“The investments have been made, the resources, the group’s ambitions, the corporate strategy with the Alpine brand – it’s all there. When a team has everything, it needs something that transcends it, someone to drive it.

“The strength of an individual who can pull 1,000 people together is very unifying.”

Alpine headed into the summer break P6 in the Constructors’ Championship, 40 points behind McLaren, and 134 behind their target of P4 which belongs to Ferrari.

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