Otmar Szafnauer responds to Laurent Rossi’s ‘unacceptable’ and ‘amateurish’ criticism

Michelle Foster
Pierre Gasly's burning Alpine TV picture. Baku April 2023

Pierre Gasly's burning Alpine TV picture. Baku April 2023

Otmar Szafnauer has downplayed Laurent Rossi’s “unacceptable” and “amateurish” criticism of Alpine’s early season form, the team boss saying he hasn’t yet discussed the CEO’s motivation for the public dressing down.

Failing to score in two of this season’s first four races, Alpine CEO Rossi launched a scathing attack on the team in the build-up to the Miami Grand Prix weekend.

Speaking about “amateurish” performances in Bahrain, where Esteban Ocon was slapped with three separate penalties, and in Baku where Pierre Gasly’s car caught fire before he crashed in qualifying, Rossi told Canal+: “It’s disappointing, it’s actually bad. This year ended up starting with a flawed performance and flawed delivery.”

Alpine bounced back from Rossi’s complaints with a double points-haul at the Miami Grand Prix where Gasly crossed the line in eighth place with Ocon P9.

Szafnauer, though, insists that wasn’t a case of responding to pressure as the entire Alpine team already puts pressure on their own shoulders to perform.

“Reading something like that on paper puts no more pressure [on us],” he told Motorsport.com.

“Everyone wants to do well here. We’re very well experienced, with technicians and engineers at the highest level, and we put pressure on ourselves. So, we just have to fix it.”

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Rossi has since doubled down on his criticism of the team’s performances and notably took aim at Szafnauer.

“It is Otmar and the rest of his team as Otmar alone doesn’t do everything,” he told the official F1 website, “but the buck stops with Otmar. It’s Otmar’s responsibility, yes.”

The team boss has brushed that and Rossi’s earlier criticism aside, revealing he has yet to read the full barrage of comments.

“I saw that you wrote something because I saw the headline, but I haven’t had time to read it,” he said.

“But we underperformed in Baku. The drivers ran into each other in Australia, and I think at the first race, we had a myriad of penalties, starting with Esteban being out of place.

“It hasn’t been a smooth start to the season and maybe that’s why he made the comments. But I have to read them.”

As for whether there was any deeper meaning behind Rossi’s criticism, the 58-year-old said: “I have no idea and you’ll have to ask him. I’ll be asking him. This weekend was so busy that I haven’t had a chance to discuss it.”

The American was also quick to point out that the issues that hindered Alpine in Baku, the engine fire for Gasly and the technical niggles and set-up issues on Ocon’s, weren’t repeated in Miami.

He added: “All we can do when we have issues like Baku is find and understand the root cause of why it happened, and make sure we either put the process or the people in place so that it doesn’t happen again.

“We had an engine fire on one side, and we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen. And then we had some finger trouble on the other side.

“With finger trouble, once you understand how it happens, there’s ways to mitigate that. That’s what we’ll do. We’ve done it already. It didn’t happen here.”

The team’s double points-haul in Miami put them up to 14 points, equal on points with McLaren.