Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has hit out at a perceived lack of respect shown by Alpine to Alan Permane following the Team Enstone stalwart’s public firing over the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.
After a disappointing start to the 2023 season, Alpine announced on Friday at Spa that the team would part company with long-serving sporting director Permane, as well as team principal Otmar Szafnauer, following the Belgian GP.
The sackings were the latest development in a period of turbulence for Alpine, who replaced chief executive Laurent Rossi with Phillipe Krief ahead of last month’s Hungarian GP. That move came just a fortnight after Bruno Famin was announced as the new vice-president of Alpine Motorsport.
Additional reporting by Sam Cooper
Christian Horner disappointed by Alan Permane sacking
While Szafnauer only arrived from rivals Aston Martin in 2022, Permane’s relationship with the team stretched back more than three decades.
Permane started his career in motor racing with the team as a test electronics engineer in 1989, before rising through the ranks to play an instrumental role in the World Championship triumphs of Michael Schumacher (as Benetton) in 1994/95 and Fernando Alonso (as Renault) in 2005/06.
He remained at Enstone throughout the Lotus era, with the team only just surviving a fraught 2015 campaign before being repurchased and rebranded by Renault.
Speaking at Spa, Horner expressed his disappointment with the way a figure of Permane’s stature had been treated by Alpine – and insisted that both Permane and Szafnauer will not be out of work for very long.
He told media including PlanetF1.com: “They’ve obviously had their own decisions and their own reasons for making their changes.
“I think the only one I would highlight – Otmar is a good guy – but I think whilst I’ve never worked with Alan Permane, or ‘Bat’ as he’s more commonly known up and down the pit lane, I think sometimes there has to be respect shown for somebody that’s put in 34 years of hard graft and been involved in World Championships with Michael Schumacher, with Fernando Alonso, and also been a steady hand during periods of that team going virtually into administration, out of administration, into different ownership and so on.
“He’s very much been a constant there during that period. I think that earns respect and recognition.
“I’m sure he’s a guy, as with Otmar, that won’t find [himself out of work for long]. It absolutely won’t be the last that you see of them in the pit lane, no doubt about that.”
Permane and Szafnauer were not the only departures announced by Alpine in Belgium, with design guru Pat Fry moving to become Williams’ chief technical officer as the first major signing by team principal and former Mercedes strategist James Vowles.
With previous stints at Ferrari and McLaren, Fry has a good reputation in F1 circles and was widely credited for turning McLaren’s fortunes around after the team hit rock bottom in a troublesome 2018 season.
Fry was heavily involved in the A522 car with which Alpine claimed fourth place in last year’s Constructors’ Championship – the highest finish since the Renault Group retook control of the team.
Alpine currently sit sixth in the standings after the first 12 races of 2023 with a 46-point deficit to fifth-placed McLaren, having held a comfortable lead over their rivals until the recent British GP.