Alpine F1 team in period of "pain and trouble" - Vowles

Alpine’s major management sackings show it is suffering through “a lot of pain and trouble”, says Williams Formula 1 boss James Vowles, who has signed the rival team’s technical chief. 

James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

Williams has lured Alpine's Pat Fry to Grove. His appointment was confirmed minutes after the French squad revealed team principal Otmar Szafnauer and sporting director Alan Permane will leave after this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

These departures follow that of the outspoken Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi, who ultimately presided over the F1 team, being moved aside to work on “special projects”. 

This significant turnover reflects a turbulent “conversion phase”, according to Vowles, who has been at the helm of Williams since February. 

He said: “I'm not inside, but they're clearly in a lot of pain and trouble and through a conversion phase. 

“The bit I can really say is that Pat's not a part of that change that they're going through. Pat's decision [to join Williams] was made many, many months ago. 

“If you go look at what was happening in the media with Alpine around that time, you might even be able to pinpoint when it was happening.” 

Vowles first approached Fry in January, stating that “he was the one I really wanted to be within Williams”, but he was content to stay at Alpine initially. 

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

Vowles reckons he convinced Fry of his vision come April. Shortly after, Rossi organised an interview with French broadcaster Canal+ to label Alpine “amateurish”. 

Szafnauer and Renault management clashed over timelines for when Alpine can achieve success.

Explaining similar experiences of his own, ex-Mercedes strategy boss Vowles said: “It's a misalignment of 'This year we should be third in the championship'. That causes the friction that you're seeing, which ends up in a decision.  

“The board are expecting one thing, the results are suggesting something else and there's no way out.  

“The proactive way is that, as you see the journey isn't going towards it, you manage the expectations of everyone and show the pathway of what you need to do to change that.  

“I'm more for that because the reactive will never end well, fundamentally.   

The hope is that Fry’s appointment offers Williams more in terms of changing its culture and helping its restructure rather than purely resulting in performance gains. 

Pat Fry, Chief Technical Officer, Alpine F1 Team, in a Press Conference

Pat Fry, Chief Technical Officer, Alpine F1 Team, in a Press Conference

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Vowles continued: “There are different types of CTOs available to you.  

“There are ones that are very good at finding your last 10 milliseconds. There are ones that are very good at putting structures and systems in place, and he's more the latter.” 

He added: “What I was looking for was the following: I'm very much a believer in behaviours and characteristics.  

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“By that I mean you need to have empowerment, you need to know how to train up the next generation of individuals, you know how to put structure in place.  

“It's not about blame, it's about fundamentally having a policy that allows failure as long as you capture it correctly and talk about it. Pat mirrors all of those.  

“He's not political in his nature. He just gets on with things.  

Williams will pursue a less high-profile technical director to work under Fry. These signings will stop the team from being “on crutches” and allow Vowles to focus on plotting a longer-term future.


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