Szafnauer responds to criticism: “I’ve been doing this for 25 years, I know what it takes”

Otmar Szfanauer has responded to the recent pressure surrounding his position at Alpine – following a series of highly critical comments from CEO Laurent Rossi over the last few weeks.

Rossi is unsatisfied with Alpine’s start to the year, lambasting the team for making “amateurish” mistakes and failing to reach its objectives for the 2023 campaign.

Given that a target of 4th place in the standings was set at the A523’s pre-season launch, some would argue that Rossi’s comments are something of an overreaction.

Alpine is the 5th-fastest team on the grid, with only Aston Martin’s resurgence this year via the AMR23 relegating the Enstone team in F1’s pecking order.

Still, when comparing the gap to Red Bull at the front, there has been no significant regression over the winter break.

Alpine A523, MiamiGP, Pierre Gasly & Esteban Ocon

Alpine can undoubtedly be criticised for spending over half a decade in the midfield, but Laurent Rossi’s attitude has dramatically shifted, given his squad’s relatively unchanged level of competitiveness.

Otmar Szafnauer only joined the team last season, so the jibes about his leadership are premature – considering the minimal impact on the team’s structure and organisation.

This brief defence of the Alpine team principal aside, the 58-year-old was asked in Monte Carlo if he’s held any discussions with Rossi:

“I’m going to see Laurent here, and I’ll see Luca [de Meo] in Barcelona. 

“I always say reasonable people with the same information will come to the same conclusion, so we all need to have the same information. 

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years; I know what it takes. If you just look at history, Mercedes and Toto bought a Championship team when they came in – Brawn. It took them five years to win again.

“Red Bull bought Jaguar, if I remember right, a midfield team; they used to finish 5th, 4th all the time. It took them five years to win again.

“Aston has done a good job, from seventh to probably second or third-fastest team. Do you know how long Lawrence has owned that team? 

“He bought it in 2018. We’re in 2023 – five years.”

The Miami GP was a welcome step forward for Alpine. Pierre Gasly’s A523 managed to keep the front-runner’s company in the early stages – before eventually falling back to the team’s usual place as the ‘best of the rest’.

However, even on their best days, it is clear that Alpine will be resigned to the lower end of the points without a significant step forward.

At face value, this is enough reason for a manufacturer like Alpine to be frustrated.

Upon further inspection, Rossi’s dramatic statements are incongruent with the transitional phase at the French outfit – a transitional phase he is largely responsible for creating.

Another team principal (following the departures of Vasseur, Abiteboul and Budkowski) would only validate the criticisms made by Alain Prost in early 2022 – accusing the Alpine CEO of creating a toxic environment.

There is no telling how the upcoming weeks and months will unfold, although it would be no surprise if this turbulent spell is considered pivotal for the team.

Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang