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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Abiteboul: Alpine F1's 100-race plan flawed amid Szafnauer exit

Cyril Abiteboul thinks his former Alpine Formula 1 team's 100-race plan to compete for titles is flawed amid the dismissal of his successor Otmar Szafnauer.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523

Ahead of last week's Belgian Grand Prix Alpine dismissed team boss Szafnauer and long-time sporting manager Alan Permane, just a week on from Renault CEO Luca de Meo replacing Laurent Rossi with Philippe Krief as the Alpine brand's CEO.

This move was explained by incoming interim team principal Bruno Famin as Szafnauer "not being on the same timeline" as Alpine on how fast its march to the front of the F1 grid is progressing amid a disappointing 2023 season.

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And despite Alpine not even being midway through a five-year or 100-race plan to fight for the world championship, its upper management decided to pull the trigger on a second round of personnel changes, with Szafnauer only lasting 18 months into the job.

Now a team boss in WRC with Hyundai, Abiteboul was replaced by Rossi at the start of 2021 when the Renault team was rebranded as Alpine. He believes Rossi's 100-race plan to get to the front was flawed from the start.

"The plan to quantify 100 grands prix... why not 120, why not 80? I don't understand it," Abiteboul told France Info.

"When you start putting forward a plan like that, you're sure to get it wrong because you don't know what others are doing in Formula 1.

"Aston Martin's colossal investments, Red Bull's incredible momentum, none of that is going to stop just because Laurent Rossi's 99th grand prix came along."

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

Abiteboul thinks Alpine's frequent personnel changes have only set the team back further due to the timelines involved in attracting senior talent from rival teams to replace them.

It's a scenario that occurred at the start in 2021 and is now set to be repeated. In addition to Szafnauer and Permane leaving, the Enstone team also lost its chief technical officer Pat Fry, who has been headhunted by Williams to perform a similar role.

"The previous management made a point of having a complete reset after I left, which involved dismissing around fifteen people," Abiteboul explained.

"We underestimate this all the time in F1, as in other highly competitive sectors: it takes time to get someone from the competition.

"When you lose 15 people and you hire, it takes two or three years before it takes effect. The reshuffle that Laurent Rossi decided to make, we haven't even really seen its impact."

He added that the team's wave of personnel changes suggests that "beyond impatience, there may also have been a bit of arrogance at the start of the season, or overconfidence.

"When you don't face up to reality, after a while you start telling yourself stories.

"You cannot rule out that the story they told themselves internally was too flattering, but Alpine isn't that far off either.

"The variations in competitiveness have affected everyone this season, with the exception of Red Bull.

"Alpine, on the other hand, are always a notch too low. Sometimes it's their fault, sometimes it's not.

"The car's competitiveness at the start of the season was below par, and they haven't had the kind of miraculous upgrade that other teams have had."

Additional reporting by Ben Vinel

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