Ex-F1 driver tears into ousted Alpine stalwart, claims he ‘couldn’t stand French drivers’

Jamie Woodhouse
Alan Permane on the Alpine pit wall. Belgium, July 2023.

Former Alpine sporting director Alan Permane alone on the pit wall. Belgium, July 2023.

Former Renault test driver Franck Montagny backs the decision from Alpine to sack Otmar Szafnauer and Alan Permane, saying the latter was a tiring figure for the team and was anti-French on the driver front.

Alpine dropped the bombshell announcement during the Belgian Grand Prix race weekend that for team principal Szafnauer and sporting director Permane, it would be their last with the Enstone squad.

Pat Fry meanwhile announced that he will leave the chief technical officer role at Alpine to take up that same position at Williams.

Franck Montagny dishes out Alan Permane criticism

Permane was perhaps the casualty which caused the most surprise around the F1 paddock, considering he had been with the team for over three decades, stretching back to its days as Benetton.

But, having worked with Renault as a test driver from 2003-05, Montagny, who went on to make seven appearances for Super Aguri, painted a negative picture of Permane’s presence, who he said was previously removed from the race team and sent to the test squad, then proceeding to “tire everyone out”.

It is safe to say then that Montagny backs the call from Alpine to show Permane the door along with Szafnauer.

“I think that the rising morale of the troops is mainly due to the fact that Permane, Szafnauer, etc. were fired, and frankly, they were useless,” said Montagny in a social media video.

“I was already with Permane when I was at Renault in 2003, and Renault took him off the race team because they couldn’t stand him on the race team any longer and put him on the test team.

“When he returned to the test team, he tired everyone out, and he’s been with the team for 34 years. I think it was the right thing to do, bravo Bruno Famin [Alpine Motorsports vice president].”

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In a further example of this apparent toxic vibe which Permane created at Alpine, Montagny skipped back to the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix, where Esteban Ocon scored what is the team’s only podium finish so far this season as he claimed P3, while Pierre Gasly crossed the line P7.

Permane had allegedly claimed at the time though that if Alpine had a better engine than the Renault power unit, and better drivers, then a double podium finish would have been on the cards, with Montagny claiming Permane has a disliking for French drivers.

The all-French line-up of Ocon and Gasly came together for F1 2023 as Gasly made the move from AlphaTauri, but instead of looking at who is behind the wheel, Montagny believes the performance of the cars from ‘Team Enstone’ under its various guises has stagnated.

“You have to remember that guys like Permane said recently that if they had a good engine and other drivers, they wouldn’t be on the podium in Monaco, they’d be on the double [podium],” said Montagny.

“Because you should also know that Permane can’t stand French drivers.

“If you look at Alpine’s results over the last five years, Alpine, Renault, whatever mix you want, Lotus, it’s all the same.

“It’s always, ‘we’re going to try to get into the top bracket, we’re trying to score points.’ And from time to time, when the opportunity arises, you need a podium finish or a win.

“But the car’s performance has been the same for five years. It doesn’t change anything, it doesn’t evolve, it doesn’t work.”

Alpine sit P6 in the current Constructors’ Championship standings, 46 points behind McLaren a place ahead.

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