Szafnauer: Rossi comments don’t put more pressure

(L to R): Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Alpine F1 Team, Team Principal with Laurent Rossi (FRA) Alpine Chief Executive Officer on the grid. 03.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB ImagesAlpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer insisted comments from CEO Laurent Rossi, lambasting the team’s 2023 performance, threatening with consequences do not add more pressure.

Alpine seem to be lost out at sea, and over the winter, they were talking big about developments and closing the gap to the top three following their fourth place in the 2022 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship, but all they could achieve is a meagre 0.6s improvement from the 2023 car, the A523.

Furthermore, their on-track operations in 2023 have been marred with mistakes, with Esteban Ocon the subject of embarrassing multiple penalties in Bahrain’s season opener, all due to driver or team error, not to mention Alpine’s disastrous weekend in Baku with engine trouble and crashes for Pierre Gasly, meaning the team left that weekend pointless. That followed Melbourne when both drivers wiped each other out after the second race restart.

Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi was clearly unhappy with the situation at his Formula 1 team, and threatened consequences if the performance does not improve, insisting the buck stops with boss Otmar Szafnauer who joined them from Aston Martin in February of 2022.

Over the Miami weekend, responding to his boss’ comments Szafnauer was quoted by F1’s Official Website saying: “We underperformed in Baku, the drivers ran into each other in Australia, I think the first race we had a myriad of penalties starting with Esteban being out of his place.

“So it hasn’t been a smooth start to the season – I don’t know, maybe that’s why he made the comments, I’ll have to read them,” he added.

“Reading something like that in the paper puts no more pressure on [our team],” Szafnauer insisted. “Everyone wants to do well here, they’re very well experienced technicians, engineers, at the highest level, and we put pressure on ourselves. We just have to fix it.”

“All we can do is, when we have issues like Baku, is find and understand the root cause of them and have the process and people in place such that it doesn’t happen again,” he went on. “We had an engine fire on one side – we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen. Once you understand how it happens there’s ways to mitigate that. That’s what we’ll do. We’ve done it already; didn’t happen here [Miami].”

Szafnauer insists Alpine can catch Mercedes, even Aston Martin…

Szafnauer: Unfortunate to have both cars come together

The Alpine Team Principal, however, insists his team are on track to achieve their targets of closing the gap to Mercedes, Ferrari, and Aston Martin as Red Bull are far off in the lead.

“Well I was looking at the points and that’s one thing, where you finish in the championship, but I was also looking at race pace today [Miami] and where we are,” said Szafnauer.

“If we can out-develop them this year, which is what we’re trying to do, we’re not that far off a Merc or even an Aston,” he claimed.

“But the points difference is big now: we didn’t optimize or even capitalise early on with the crashes and Baku was far from ideal. The more races go on and we scored decent points here but we need to score a little bit more to try to catch up,” he concluded.

The fact remains, that Alpine started the season with an aim to be closer to last year’s top three, Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes, but with Aston Martin leaping to the top with their impressive development over the winter, Alpine now have to deal with a top four, meaning at best cases they will be fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, one place down from 2023.

Will that be enough to please the Alpine and Renault big wigs, and keep Szafnauer in his job? Or will he be given his marching orders?