Why Alpine has abandoned its no team boss structure

Alpine's announcement that Otmar Szafnauer is joining it as team principal comes just one year after the Formula 1 team famously embraced a no-boss structure.

Why Alpine has abandoned its no team boss structure

As it headed into the 2021 campaign under its new identity, the Enstone-based squad elected to have a pretty unique management system in place.

It did away with having a designated team boss and instead had a triumvirate running things: Laurent Rossi as CEO, Marcin Budkowski as executive director and Davide Brivio as racing director.

But as the team's form plateaued en route to fifth place in the constructors' championship last year, Rossi was open that he needed to shake things up for 2022 and beyond if the team was going to hit the front.

The result is that of the three men that were at the helm, two of them are now no longer directly involved in the F1 team.

Budkowski departed the operation completely over the winter, while Brivio has been moved into a new role overseeing Alpine's young drivers and its racing activities elsewhere.

Now, Alpine has a designated team principal in Otmar Szafnauer and he will work alongside former FIA and Peugeot man Bruno Famin, who will head Renault's Viry operations.

But while the new structure seems to suggest that Alpine's old plan did not work, Rossi sees things differently.

He is clear that 'it did not not work'. Instead, he suggests that a no boss approach for 2021 was bred by necessity, following the late departure of former team principal Cyril Abiteboul.

"I would say that that was the best configuration with what we had, as you can't replace a seasoned team manager like Cyril overnight," Rossi told selected media including Motorsport.com in an interview discussing the team overhaul.

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

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

Photo by: Alpine

"You can also not build a structure like the Alpine one, which was newly created, by simply deciding to put new people in place. It takes a bit of time to find the right people in the right place.

"That combination of the three of us last year was bringing each their own specificities and skills, which enabled us to never look stupid on the track. That's the most important.

"We went through the season, we never made a fool of ourselves, it was just fine. But now was it the right structure to move forward and take the team to the next level?

"The team has been plateauing and rather was in almost a negative slope. Fourth in 2018, fifth in 2019, and 2020. And then last year fifth, but everyone knows that had [Yuki] Tsunoda been at the level of Pierre [Gasly], maybe it would have been a different story.

"So it was certainly reaching a good level of operation as best of the rest. But it was not what was needed for the next challenges. And this is where I decided that, to get there we need to reinforce the team, I can go back to a structure more conventional.

"That is because Otmar has way more experience than the three of us last year put together in Formula 1. He has the pedigree, and he has the skills. So now we have a team principal and he is a team principal."

Szafnauer arrives with a strong reputation, having helped drive Team Silverstone (Force India/Racing Point/Aston Martin) to podiums and victories in F1 despite it never being the most flush with cash.

Rossi sees the American-Romanian's engineering background, as well as knowledge of working within big manufacturers like Ford and Honda, as critical to helping achieve better unity across Alpine's Enstone and Viry facilities.

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal and CEO, Aston Martin F1

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal and CEO, Aston Martin F1

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

"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 in addition to that, clear leadership, and team-building capabilities.

"That's precisely what Otmar is going bring. He's done it in the past, very brilliantly, especially with limited means at Force India and then Racing Point. He's going to do it again with us."

Where Rossi believes Alpine has been lacking is in making the most of being a works team. He suggests that the chassis and engine side have not been as integrated as needed. And that meant the team was missing making the most of all its strengths.

"It was obvious that we needed to have someone that's combining or marshalling the resources across the three sides [engine, chassis and track].

"I needed someone who's capable of making that bridge first. Because if you really want to be a works team, you really need to have Viry and Enstone taking to each other.

"Otherwise, you're just a customer team, which is the worst because you're paying for the engine and the development, but you behave like a customer team. So you're not really a works team."

As well as the Szafnauer/Famin alliance, Alpine has also restructured its technical structure, with Pat Fry stepping up into a CTO position and Matt Harman, a former head of powertrain integration at Mercedes, taking the technical director role.

Rossi added: "Matt is bringing with him a PU engineer background, and a great capability of designing a car, since he's the one who was heading the design office.

"He has that nice blend of being a versatile generalist in terms of understanding all of the areas of the globe, but being also an expert at the PU. In doing so, we're going to reinforce a capability of integrating the PU into the chassis, which will bring performance on the PU, which is important, and on the chassis.

"Those two were clearly areas that were making the difference and the gap with the best teams up until now. So hopefully we correct that."

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Ultimately in F1 though, structures aren't what you are judged on, it's only car performance that matters.

After three years of finishing fifth in the standing, it is clear Alpine wants to and needs to do better. But is Rossi confident 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 were not necessarily capable of competing with these guys, for sure - because otherwise we would, simple as that," he said.

"The truth of the track is impossible to deny. But we've already made changes and we'll carry on make changes to a structure, to the way we do things.

"It is not like fundamental changes, it is here or there just learning from the best."

shares
comments
Szafnauer joins Alpine as new F1 team principal
Previous article

Szafnauer joins Alpine as new F1 team principal

Next article

The apparent tributes to Ferrari's history in its 2022 F1 car

The apparent tributes to Ferrari's history in its 2022 F1 car
The pioneering F1 car that preceded Lotus’s terminal decline Plus

The pioneering F1 car that preceded Lotus’s terminal decline

In the hands of Ayrton Senna the actively suspended 99T would be the last F1 race-winning Lotus but, as STUART CODLING reveals, it was a complicated machine that caused more problems than it solved

Formula 1
Feb 5, 2023
How Tyrrell became a racing Rubik’s cube as it faded out of F1 Plus

How Tyrrell became a racing Rubik’s cube as it faded out of F1

Formula 1’s transformation into a global sport meant the gradual extinction for a small team determined to stay true to its low-budget roots. But Tyrrell would eventually be reborn as a world-beating outfit again, explains MAURICE HAMILTON, albeit in different colours…

Formula 1
Feb 4, 2023
Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver Plus

Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver

Many doubted Lewis Hamilton’s move from McLaren to Mercedes for the 2013 Formula 1 season. But the journey he’s been on since has taken the Briton to new heights - and to a further six world championship titles

Formula 1
Feb 2, 2023
Why new look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era Plus

Why new look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era

OPINION: With teams outside the top three having struggled in Formula 1 in recent seasons, the rules changes introduced in 2022 should have more of an impact this season. How well Haas does, as the poster child for the kind of team that F1 wanted to be able to challenge at the front, is crucial

Formula 1
Feb 2, 2023
The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff Plus

The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

OPINION: Although the central building blocks for Mercedes’ recent, long-lasting Formula 1 success were installed before he joined the team, Toto Wolff has been instrumental in ensuring it maximised its finally-realised potential after years of underachievement. The 10-year anniversary of Wolff joining Mercedes marks the perfect time to assess his work

Formula 1
Feb 1, 2023
The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate Plus

The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

Alpine’s signing of Pierre Gasly alongside Esteban Ocon revives memories of a famous all-French line-up, albeit in the red of Ferrari, for BEN EDWARDS. Can the former AlphaTauri man's arrival help the French team on its path back to winning ways in a tribute act to the Prancing Horse's title-winning 1983?

Formula 1
Jan 31, 2023
How do the best races of F1 2022 stack up to 2021? Plus

How do the best races of F1 2022 stack up to 2021?

OPINION: A system to score all the grands prix from the past two seasons produces some interesting results and sets a standard that 2023 should surely exceed

Formula 1
Jan 31, 2023
Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022? Plus

Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Who was the fastest driver in 2022? Everyone has an opinion, but what does the stopwatch say? Obviously, differing car performance has an effect on ultimate laptime – but it’s the relative speed of each car/driver package that’s fascinating and enlightening says ALEX KALINAUCKAS

Formula 1
Jan 30, 2023