Ex-Alpine boss reveals huge budget cap shortfall as 100-race plan stalls

Jamie Woodhouse
Alpine driver Esteban Ocon's A523 in the garage overnight in Las Vegas.

Esteban Ocon's Alpine car in the garage.

Former Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer said the team were “double-digit” millions below cost cap level when he joined.

Szafnauer became team principal of Alpine ahead of the 2022 campaign, but by the time of the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix, found himself as part of the shock senior staff exodus.

As well as Szafnauer, it was also confirmed at that point that sporting director Alan Permane was out, along with chief technical officer Pat Fry. Former racing director Davide Brivio, who had more recently shifted to working with the Alpine Academy, has since been confirmed to leave at the end of 2023.

Otmar Szafnauer reveals alarming Alpine cost cap deficit

Since 2021, Formula 1 has placed a limit on the budgets of each team per season, the likes of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari having scaled back their spending significantly since to comply.

It is expected that most teams are now operating around cost cap level, Alpine certainly as the works team of their parent brand, the automotive giant Renault, this also a team that had crafted its 100-race plan to return to the F1 summit.

However, Szafnauer confirmed that when he walked through the door, this was not the case.

Speaking in an interview with Peter Windsor on his YouTube channel, it was put to Szafnauer that the cost cap was designed to elevate the midfield without the need for extensive staff recruitment, to which he replied: “Yes, but that assumes you’re already at the cap.

“If you’re not, then there’s headroom to hire. Which we had at Alpine because we were not at the cap.”

As Windsor expressed his surprise at hearing this, Szafnauer added: “So, when I got there, we were double-digit millions below the cap, so we had headroom to hire.”

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Szafnauer said that he takes at least “six months” to make a general assessment of which areas of his team need bolstering, and a major department where he focused the recruitment mission was on the aerodynamic performance group…as Alpine did not have one.

“I always had the philosophy of you shouldn’t make change for the sake of change,” he said. “You need to have a good understanding and make change in areas that you know are going to be better because you’re changing them, and that’s exactly what I did at Alpine.

“So I took some time, understood the areas that were lacking, and then started making changes.

“When I got there, there was no separate aero performance group for example. And at the bigger teams, they have 20 to 25 people looking at aerodynamic performance right, which is a separate group from the aero group. It’s almost like a vehicle dynamics group, but focused on aero, and Alpine didn’t have that.

“But by the time I left, I recruited a new head of that group, separated it from the aerodynamics group, and then started recruiting people underneath. That’s just one example.”

Alpine would finish P6 in the F1 2023 Constructors’ Championship, a drop of two positions on their result from the previous year.

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