Don’t you just hate it when your boss throws you under the bus? CEO of the Alpine F1 Team Laurent Rossi recently made some scathing remarks about the team after a slow start to their 2023 season. He called the season opener in Bahrain “amateurish” after Esteban Ocon picked up a rare hat-trick of penalties, and called Baku “unacceptable” after Pierre Gasly’s entire weekend was hampered by a huge engine failure. After seven years of Renault’s return to F1, it seems their latest boss has had enough of the team spinning its metaphorical wheels.
Rossi also said: “You’re allowed to make mistakes – it’s a basic principle. But you do need to learn [from them], and when you make the same mistakes twice, it means you haven’t learned and you’re not taking responsibility.” The 2023 Monaco Grand Prix, with Ocon scoring a brilliant podium for the team will no doubt ease some of the pressure, but how has the team who finished fourth in the Constructors’ Championship last year fallen into so much inner turmoil?
A lot of the tension at Alpine stems from their own lofty expectations as a factory team. When they came back to F1 as Renault in 2016, then CEO Carlos Ghosn pledged the infamous “five-year plan” to make them title contenders by 2020. That failed spectacularly, with just three podium finishes to their name across the five years, and failing to crack the Top 3 of the Constructors’ Championship.
Laurent Rossi then took over as CEO of the team in 2021, and while he was more modest about expectations, saying he wanted the team to be “regularly on the podium” by 2024, it was hard to ignore the parallels with Ghosn’s approach when Rossi called his regime a “100-race plan” instead.
And while Alpine has made some tangible progress since then, scoring their first win since coming back in the epic Hungarian GP of 2021, and have returned to their best Championship finish of 4th since coming back in 2022, the French manufacturer has been one of the biggest victims of Aston Martin’s shock rise, knocking them back down to 5th in the standings and clearly drawing anger from Rossi over the team taking a step backwards.
With Alpine desperate to make genuine inroads into F1’s elite given their parent company’s clout as a car maker, and the sport sometimes leaning towards football’s approach to quicker cycling out of managers, all the pressure falls to team principal Otmar Szafnauer to quickly steady the ship, and he was quick to bite back when asked about Laurent’s comments in Monaco.
“We set ourselves a 100-race plan, we’re 26 races into it. I still think that is a timeframe that’s achievable but it doesn’t happen overnight.
“Mercedes and Toto Wolff when he came in, they bought a championship-winning team in Brawn, and it took five years to win. Red Bull bought Jaguar, a midfield team, and it took them five years to win.
“Aston have done a good job, seventh to probably second, third fastest team, you know how long Lawrence has owned that team? He bought it in 2018, we’re in 2023 – five years. I’ve been in F1 25 years, I know what it takes.”
Otmar certainly has a point – Winning overnight is very rare in a sport as competitive as F1, but when Alpine have already toiled away in the midfield for eight seasons since coming back and need lofty results to justify the hundreds of millions of pounds Renault have invested, it’s understandable why the senior management at Alpine might not share the same level of patience that Otmar’s trying to instil.
Who’s in the right within Alpine’s management? And do you think they’ll ever become an elite team in F1 again? Let us know in the comments, and if you enjoyed the video, be sure to Subscribe!