While former team principal Otmar Szafnauer and sporting director Alan Permane both reckoned that it would realistically take a few more years for the Enstone-based squad to hit its victory targets, the French car manufacturer’s senior management believed it could be done quicker.
It was this disconnect of timeline and ambition that ultimately saw Alpine pull the trigger and part ways with both men after the Belgian Grand Prix.
However, although Alpine may believe that reaching the forefront by 2024, or at the latest, 2025, is possible, other teams are more doubtful about the ability to achieve such a rapid performance transformation.
For however much Aston Martin was able to make a leap last winter, and McLaren deliver an impressive jump during this season, the reality is that the evolution of those changes goes back at least two or three years.
At Aston Martin, it was the arrival of Lawrence Stroll in delivering ambition and vision that set in motion the aggressive investment and recruitment that has helped haul it towards the front of the grid.
McLaren has also experienced significant transformations. CEO Zak Brown assigned current team principal Andrea Stella a few years ago to establish a technical structure that capitalizes on the advantages of the existing regulations.
While Alpine has just got rid of its top staff, the common theme to Aston Martin and McLaren is of strong leaders getting their elbows and chequebooks out, empowering the F1 team to get on and do its job; and then not meddling because outside company ambitions were not aligned.
Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team
Photo by: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport
Cyril Abiteboul, the former boss of the Renault team and current head of Hyundai’s motorsport operations, believes that the crucial factor for achieving success is having strong leadership that prioritizes delivering F1 success above all else, even if it occasionally goes against corporate procedures.
He informed Motorsport.com that in order to succeed at a high level within an organization, it requires an individual’s determination to achieve victory at any expense, even disregarding the established corporate framework.
“I cannot reword”
“I cannot reword”
Abiteboul suggests that having a clear vision and receiving support from higher authorities can foster a culture of success within teams. This way, individuals can focus on their work without constantly worrying about making a mistake that could jeopardize their employment.
“He stated that it requires an individual who will encourage the race teams to pursue their goals and assure them that they will receive all necessary support and protection from him.”
“If there is a requirement for a connection with the manufacturer, then it would be beneficial to have someone who can ensure the race team’s safety.”
The connection between Mercedes’ race team’s organization and Mercedes corporate should not be underestimated. However, there is a well-established framework in place that is stable and allows them to concentrate on their main objective of winning races.
The decision to empower team members appears to contradict Alpine’s actions in parting ways with Szafnauer and Permane. This move undoubtedly had a detrimental impact on morale within the Alpine team.
Examining the grid thoroughly reveals that another crucial aspect of achieving success is eliminating a culture of blame within teams, which can lead to a cycle of hiring and firing. Instead, it is imperative for senior management to possess the courage to accept responsibility and take the blame when things do not go as planned.
Laurent Rossi, CEO, Alpine F1, attends the Press Conference
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes, believes that in order for F1 teams to succeed, they should prioritize processes over individuals. He also emphasizes the importance of eliminating a culture of blame when it comes to the unavoidable mistakes that occur.
“I believe it is a common human response that whenever something goes awry, we tend to attribute blame to someone else, as it helps alleviate the pressure on ourselves,” he expressed. “This is a topic that we frequently discuss and deliberate upon.”
“Obviously, when circumstances are favorable, one can meet those expectations. However, there are occasions when things go awry, as was the case for us in the previous year and on a few occasions this year.”
“So, it’s important to consistently remind yourself of the mindset and values that focus on blaming the problem rather than the person.”
Ultimately, the responsibility lies with me: If we experience a subpar pit stop, it is not solely due to a mechanic’s underperformance, but rather a result of inadequate equipment, insufficient training, or improper wheel nut maintenance.
Ultimately, it is possible to identify the source of the problem. Typically, it is our responsibility to cultivate individuals in order for them to excel in their respective roles. We have remained committed to this approach.
Wolff’s management culture has certainly rubbed off on new Williams team principal James Vowles, who is perhaps best-placed to understand the challenges and timeframes involved in turning around an F1 team’s operations.
Having the correct culture in place is essential, according to Vowles.
“I firmly believe that culture is more influential than strategy,” he stated. “No matter what strategy you implement, its impact is temporary, lasting only for a short period of time, perhaps a week to a year if you’re fortunate. However, your culture serves as the driving force behind it and has the ability to transform the entire organization.”
And just like infrastructure and car design takes a while to be changed, so too is it impossible to get that right culture in place in an instant.
According to Vowles, it takes approximately three years to properly equip a team like Williams, based on his calculations. Transforming the team’s morale cannot be achieved in a shorter timeframe.
“I cannot reword”
Alpine’s success in 2026 relies on the changes made by Szafnauer taking effect within a three-year timeframe.
With Alpine convinced it can be achieved much quicker, it will be fascinating to see then what it plans to do differently to break the F1 mould and deliver.
Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523
Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images