Why Alpine abandoned its structure without a team boss

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As they headed into the 2021 campaign under their new identity, the Enstone-based team opted to implement a rather unique management system.

He removed the designated team manager and instead had a triumvirate to run things: Laurent Rossi as CEO, Marcin Budkowski as executive director and Davide Brivio as race director.

But as the team’s form plateaued en route to fifth in the Constructors’ Championship last year, Rossi was clear he needed to shake things up for 2022 and beyond if the team was going to hit the front.

Result, of the three men who were at the helm, two of them are no longer directly involved in the F1 team.

Budkowski left the operation altogether over the winter, while Brivio moved into a new role overseeing Alpine’s young riders and its racing activities elsewhere.

Now Alpine has an appointed team principal in Otmar Szafnauer and he will work alongside former FIA and Peugeot man Bruno Famin, who will lead Renault’s operations at Viry.

But while the new structure seems to suggest Alpine’s old plan didn’t work, Rossi sees things differently.

It is clear that he has no not job’. Instead, he suggests a bossless approach for 2021 was spawned out of necessity, following the late departure of former team principal Cyril Abiteboul.

“I would say it was the best setup with what we had because you can’t replace a seasoned team manager like Cyril overnight,” Rossi told selected media including Motorsport.com in an interview. on the reorganization of the team.

Third place Fernando Alonso, Alpine celebrates with Laurent Rossi, CEO of Alpine

Picture by: Alpine

“Nor can you build a structure like that of Alpine, which has just been created, by simply deciding to put new people in place. It takes a little time to find the right people in the right place.

“That combination of the three of us last year each brought our specificities and skills, which ensured that we never looked stupid on the track. That’s the most important thing.

“We went through the season, we never made fun of each other, it was very good. But now, was it the right structure to move forward and take the team to the next level?

“The team reached a plateau and was more on an almost negative slope. Fourth in 2018, fifth in 2019 and 2020. And then last year fifth, but everyone knows that had [Yuki] Tsunoda been at Peter’s level [Gasly]maybe that would have been a different story.

“So that was definitely getting to a good level of functioning like the best of the rest. But that wasn’t what was needed for the next challenges. And that’s when I decided that in order to get there, we had to strengthen the team, I can go back to a more conventional structure.

“It’s because Otmar has way more experience than the three of us put together last year in Formula 1. He has the pedigree and he has the skills. So now we have a team principal and he’s a manager. team.”

Szafnauer arrives with a solid reputation, having helped lead the Silverstone team (Force India/Racing Point/Aston Martin) to podiums and victories in F1 despite never being the richest in money.

Rossi sees the Romanian-American engineering background, as well as his knowledge of working within big manufacturers like Ford and Honda, as key to helping achieve greater unity between Alpine’s facilities in Enstone and Viry.

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal and CEO, Aston Martin F1

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal and CEO, Aston Martin F1

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport pictures

“He’s obviously a senior engineer, which doesn’t hurt. We already have top engineers in our team, but he’s also going to bring on top of that, clear leadership and team-building abilities. .

“That’s precisely what Otmar will bring. He did it in the past, very brilliantly, especially with limited resources at Force India and then Racing Point. He will do it again with us.”

Where Rossi thinks Alpine has fallen short is making the most of being a works team. He suggests that the chassis and engine side haven’t been as integrated as necessary. And that meant the team failed to make the most of all their strengths.

“It was obvious that we needed someone who would combine or bring together the resources of the three sides [engine, chassis and track].

“I needed someone who was able to make that bridge first. Because if you really want to be a work team, you really need Viry and Enstone to support each other.

“Otherwise you’re just a customer team, which is the worst because you’re paying for the engine and development, but you behave like a customer team. So you’re not really a work team.”

In addition to the Szafnauer/Famin alliance, Alpine has also restructured its technical structure, with Pat Fry taking on a role as CTO and Matt Harman, former head of powertrain integration at Mercedes, taking on the role of technical director.

Rossi added: “Matt brings with him a background as a PU engineer and a great ability to design a car, since he was the one who ran the design office.

“He has this nice mix of being a versatile generalist in terms of understanding all parts of the globe, but also being a PU expert. which will bring performance on the PU, which is important, and on the chassis.

“Those two were clearly areas that made the difference and the gap with the top teams so far. So hopefully we fix that.”

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport pictures

Ultimately, in F1, structures are not what you are judged on, only the performance of the car counts.

After three years in fifth place in the standings, it is clear that Alpine wants and needs to do better. But is Rossi convinced that Alpine now has what it takes to take on the might of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari?

“If I’m going to be brutally honest, we weren’t necessarily able to compete with those guys, that’s for sure – because otherwise we would, simple as that,” he said.

“The truth of the track is impossible to deny. But we have already made changes and we will continue to make changes to a structure, to the way we do things.

“It’s not like fundamental changes, it’s here or there, just learning from the best.”

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