Ex-Renault F1 boss suggests ‘arrogance’ and ‘overconfidence’ set in at Alpine

Michelle Foster
Alpine's Otmar Szafnauer at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Alpine's Otmar Szafnauer at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Former Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul has spoken of impatience, arrogance, and overconfidence as he questioned Alpine’s 100-race success plan.

Alpine, formerly known as Renault, shocked the Formula 1 paddock on Friday when they announced team principal Otmar Szafnauer and stalwart and sporting director Alan Permane would be leaving the team after the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

The announcement brought to an end Szafnauer’s 18-month tenure, having joined from Aston Martin in 2022, with Alpine announcing Bruno Famin as the interim team principal.

‘Impatience, arrogance and overconfidence’ at Alpine

That Szafnauer’s ousting came on the eve of only his 34th race in charge at a team where the higher-ups spoke of a 100-race plan for success, the line put out by now-former Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi, baffles Abiteboul.

“This reflects dissatisfaction with the results and most likely a loss of patience on the part of the Renault group’s management committee,” the Frenchman told France Info.

“Beyond impatience, there may also have been a bit of arrogance at the start of the season or overconfidence.

“When you don’t face up to reality, after a while you start telling yourself stories. You cannot rule out that the story they told themselves internally was too flattering, but Alpine isn’t that far off either.”

In fact, the now-Hyundai Motorsport boss believes Alpine haven’t been doing too bad despite sitting P6 in the Constructors’ Championship.

Speaking about a season with “competitiveness variations, apart from Red Bull, who have such an advantage that they manage to get out of all situations”, he reckons Alpine’s “lap times can sometimes be good, or even very good, other times not so good.”

He does, however, concede they’ve made mistakes, saying: “Sometimes it’s a little their fault, sometimes not. They lost a large number of points, which places them 6th in the Constructors’ Championship, far from the announced objectives.

“The competitiveness of the car at the start of the season was below, and they didn’t have this kind of miraculous evolution that other teams had: McLaren recently, Mercedes, Ferrari, Aston Martin at the start of the season.”

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Abiteboul confused by Alpine’s ‘100 race’ plan

But with interim team principal Famin stating that Szafnauer and Permane “were not on the same line, on the timeline to recover the level, or reach the level, of performance we are aiming for” as the team, Abiteboul was asked about Alpine’s 100-race plan.

“The plans to be quantified at 100 Grands Prix, why not 120, why not 80… I don’t understand them,” he said.

“When you start posting a plan like that, you’re sure to be wrong because you don’t control what the others are doing in Formula 1. The colossal investments of Aston Martin, the incredible dynamics of Red Bull, all that is wrong not stop because we were arriving at Laurent Rossi’s 99th grand prix.”

Following on from Szafnauer’s comments that “you can’t get nine women pregnant and hope you have a baby in a month“, Abiteboul agrees he wasn’t given enough time after the mass exodus of staff at Alpine after he left in 2021.

“The previous management wanted to do a complete reset after my departure,” he said, “which had dismissed about fifteen people. We underestimate him all the time in F1 as in other ultra-competitive sectors: getting someone from the competition takes time.

“When you lose 15 people and recruit… It takes two to three years before it takes effect. The reshuffle that Laurent Rossi wanted to do, we didn’t even really see what he gave.”

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