In F1, it has been widely believed for years that a clear vision, stability, investment, and realism are the key factors for success. However, Alpine’s decision to part ways with two of its most experienced individuals appears to be a departure from this accepted wisdom.
The team’s lack of an overall strategy is evident as they seem to make decisions without any coherence or plan.
Just three weeks ago, Alpine’s F1 engine chief Bruno Famin was appointed VP of Motorsport, to act as a clear touch point for CEO Laurent Rossi above him and F1 team boss Szafnauer below him.
He mentioned that the intention was to clarify the reporting structure for Szafnauer, but Alpine’s vision for success with its 100-race plan remained unchanged.
Famin stated that there is no requirement to modify the roadmap.
One week later, Alpine made an announcement that Rossi had departed from his position and would be taking on undisclosed “special projects” responsibilities. Philippe Krief, a former employee of Ferrari, was appointed as his replacement.
Many saw the move as a way to elevate Szafnauer by completely excluding Rossi from the situation. Their views on the progress of the Alpine team have not aligned this season.
After the senior rearrangement, Szafnauer expressed his belief that Renault CEO Luca de Meo would grant him the required time to elevate Alpine to the top of the F1 grid. This aligns with the 100-race strategy set to conclude in 2026.
Szafnauer expressed that he was unsure if de Meo possessed the required patience, emphasizing that it would take some time to determine.
“It has required patience from everyone involved. I am aware that Luca is a trustworthy person, and he made a promise to me regarding winning 100 races. Occasionally, progress may involve a temporary setback before making significant advancements.”
“I am confident that Luca will honor his promise and provide me with the time for the 100 races that are necessary.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1 Team, in the Team Principals Press Conference
Photo by: FIA Pool
However, shortly after Szafnauer spoke those words and following the team’s disastrous Hungarian GP, it became clear what the outcome would be.
Due to the persistent disagreement between Szafnauer’s perspective on the required timeframes for elevating Alpine’s position and the most effective approach to accomplish it, his tenure at Alpine came to an end.
And for Permane, who many viewed as a lifer at Enstone, a similar lack of agreement with Alpine’s senior management over exactly what the team needed to do and how long it would take to get there was viewed as an obstacle to him remaining.
The reason the trigger was pulled was not because Szafnauer and Permane were deemed unimportant employees, but rather due to a lack of agreement on the vision.
As stated by Famin, maintaining confidence was crucial throughout the development of these projects. It is essential for the entire team, including top management, to be aligned.
“We were collaborating, but at some point, we recognized that we had differing opinions on a few subjects. The competition is extremely tough. If we are not completely in agreement, we understand from our past experiences that it is futile to proceed together, and each individual must find their own path to progress.”
Famin confirmed at Spa on Friday that he and the car company management believe Alpine can achieve competitiveness at a quicker pace and through a unique approach, differing from the suggestions of Szafnauer and Permane, who have more experience.
Alpine’s conviction that it possesses superior knowledge appears to be highly extraordinary, as it contradicts the prevailing opinions of others in the F1 community regarding a practical timeline and approach for implementation.
After all, only a few weeks ago, even Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur warned of the ‘inertia’ that is in place in moving F1 teams forward – as he faces waiting until the start of 2025 to get hold of Mercedes performance director Loic Serra.
“He mentioned that we appear highly adaptable. We have the ability to make adjustments and address problems swiftly, even within a short time frame between races.”
“But the truth is, in our industry, when we try to make small adjustments, we lose our flexibility. We understand that when it comes to hiring, it takes time, not just a few days but potentially years.”
“I recently recruited a highly skilled individual who will commence their role in 2025. Their focus will solely be on the vehicle during the years 2025 and 2026.”
“It may feel like a lengthy wait. However, on the flip side, if you choose not to take action, the situation will deteriorate further in six months. You must acknowledge it as a fundamental aspect of F1. If you halt at a certain point, it implies that you will further delay the consequences.”
Szafnauer has extensive knowledge of these timeframes due to his years of experience in F1. This explains why Alpine, despite having already hired senior staff from other teams, still needs to wait several months for their arrival. It is not possible to expedite the termination of employment contracts without incurring significant costs.
However, there is another element in action here from the viewpoint of Alpine, which relates to Einstein’s well-known concept of insanity: repeating the same action repeatedly and anticipating different outcomes.
From Famin’s perspective, it was unrealistic for Alpine to expect any change in how quickly results could be delivered if there was no overhaul of who was left in charge.
Based on his viewpoint, stability can occasionally have negative consequences as it hinders the ability to change course, which he believes is essential considering the team’s performance in 2023.
When discussing the departure of experienced individuals at Alpine, Famin stated: “I believe that sticking to the same methods and achieving consistent results without any progress can also be seen as stability.”
“If we had been in closer proximity to the top teams this season, undoubtedly things would have turned out differently. However, in order to progress and increase our speed, we must make certain adjustments to enhance stability and overcome its current hindrance.”
Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, stand by as marshals assist with a fire
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Famin refutes the notion that the sequence of recent events suggests disorder within Alpine, and firmly asserts that the French manufacturer possesses a distinct understanding of the necessary requirements.
When questioned about the recent events that seem to be unfolding without a clear strategy, he expressed that this is not a very optimistic way of presenting things. He further emphasized that, in fact, Alpine does have a plan and is determined to develop and execute it.
The aforementioned alterations do not occur overnight. They encompass a comprehensive perspective, and upon contemplation, one can discern a certain coherence in all of it.
“This is not done from one hour to another. The goal is really to push the development of the brand and one of the things we need to do is to push the development of the Formula One team.”
Currently, there is a vision for a comprehensive transformation, but the specific approach to implementing it remains uncertain. Famin acknowledges that the chosen path has not yet been determined.
“He expressed the need for significant changes in our project,” he stated. “However, my initial step will involve evaluating the overall state of the team, the factories, and their collaborative efforts. This assessment will guide our decision-making process.”
Alpine’s immediate future remains the same at the moment. They are still working on improving their chassis, and there is a possibility that the FIA’s evaluation of Alpine’s Renault engine being inferior to their competitors could result in efforts to equalize the power units. Famin will assume the position of team boss, but it is uncertain whether he will stay for the entire duration or bring in another person.
In the long run, the situation is more uncertain. Alpine’s strategy of participating in 100 races to compete at the forefront in 2026 is evidently inadequate. Therefore, they must promptly and significantly react if they wish to make significant progress during the upcoming winter and next year.
However, according to a knowledgeable individual in the paddock, Alpine’s strategy and elimination of certain aspects does not seem to be a path to success due to the lack of a clear direction.
They proposed that it would be unexpected for it to lead to their success at an earlier time. In reality, it has likely set them back by five years.
It will be the responsibility of Alpine’s new leaders to demonstrate that this is not true.
Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523
Photo by: Erik Junius