Otmar Szafnauer ‘didn’t get a fair chance, hands tied’ at Alpine

Thomas Maher
Otmar Szafnauer attended the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.

Otmar Szafnauer and Alpine parted ways in mid-2023 due to differing views.

Former Alpine chief Pat Fry has opened up on the decisions that led to his departure from the team in order to join Williams.

The British engineer jumped ship to join Williams as their new chief technical officer after holding the same role at Alpine, with the announcement coinciding with revolution at the Enstone-based team over the Belgian GP weekend.

Aside from Fry’s departure, Alpine also announced that team boss Otmar Szafnauer and sporting director Alan Permane would leave the team ahead of the second half of the season.

Pat Fry ‘didn’t feel’ enthusiasm or drive from Alpine

Fry, addressing select media including PlanetF1.com, for the first time since his switch to Williams, explained the thought process behind his decision to leave.

“I look back at the first three years I was there,” he said.

“We improved Enstone, dramatically – year on year, we built a better car.

“If you put the three cars next to each other, each one was a massive step. Credit for everyone there, the various teams were collaborating a huge amount better.

“I think everyone there should be proud of what we achieved in those three years. I guess I’d gone back there with that… you go back to the place you started your career and try and rebuild it.

“I think we did really well, but from, whatever, a distant fifth, we were a solid fourth. But I didn’t feel there was the enthusiasm or the drive to move forward beyond fourth.

“I decided at the start of March that I want to be pushing things forward. I don’t just want to sit there and not be able to do things. So, for me, that was time to stop and move on really.”

Asked for his thoughts on why he felt there was an incompatibility with Alpine, Fry said he felt the team’s message was at odds with the reality of his experience as their chief technical officer.

“It’s one of those things,” he said.

“I think, as a company, they almost weren’t set up to push hard enough. You can say you want to be first but the difference between saying it and achieving it is monumental, isn’t it really, as we all know?

“The destiny that we were in charge of, we could control and I think we did a good job. I’m not so sure that Otmar got a fair chance at fixing the place because, to some degree, things metaphorically, your hands are tied, I guess.

“As I say, I think everyone there should be proud of what we achieved in those first three years. It’s always a shame walking away from things.

“But, for me, that was time. I’d taken them as far as I could and it was time for me to put my feet up and sit in my garden.”

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Pat Fry opens up on thrill of Williams challenge

Having made the switch to a Williams team that are showing shoots of recovery away from a few years loitering at the back of the grid, Fry was convinced to join as new team boss James Vowles tempted him away with offers of stability and support.

“James had been talking to me for a little while, and it wasn’t for another couple of months after that, that I decided to come here,” he said.

“I guess the thing that excites me about this opportunity is the board is fully on board with what it’s going to take to move this place forward.

“They’re willing to invest what it takes and support us in building a team and it’s a nice thing, isn’t it? To rebuild an old British icon. It’s a bit like my romantic view of going back to Benetton to rebuild them, really.

“So it’s another exciting prospect really.

“James is pushing hard to try and improve this place, the board is fully behind him moving the pace forward, and that’s the thing that excites me really.

“We’re not going to be limited in what we can achieve. We just got to do the best we can in the time and move things forward.”

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