Former Alpine Formula 1 team boss Otmar Szafnauer says Renault’s senior management do not understand what it takes to be successful in the series.
Szafnauer left the team after last month’s Belgian Grand Prix as part of wholesale changes at the Enstone team, with long-time sporting director Alan Permane also leaving.
The news follows the departure of Alpine chief executive Laurent Rossi, who was sidelined by Renault CEO Luca de Meo in a position away from the F1 programme.
At Spa, interim team principal Bruno Famin said Szafnauer and Renault were on “different timetables” when it came to stopping Alpine’s five-year plan to fight for wins and championships.
Talking to SiriusXM, Szafnauer says he “couldn’t agree to an unrealistic timetable” with de Meo, saying Renault management lacked an understanding of what it takes to be successful in F1.
“I think Renault’s senior management, CEO Luca de Meo, like everyone in F1, wants success right away and unfortunately, that’s not how it works in F1,” Szafnauer said.
“They wanted to do it as quickly as possible and I couldn’t agree to an unrealistic timetable because if you do that, it’s only a matter of time and everyone gets disappointed, so I made a very realistic and feasible plan and I think they wanted to shorten that the plan with someone else.”
Szafnauer pointed to Renault’s lack of patience with his recruitment plans as a symptom of underlying issues.
He revealed that when he started at Alpine 18 months ago, he found several gaps in the Enstone team’s expertise. Plugging these holes by bringing in staff from rival teams, who are generally on long-term contracts and subject to gardening leave, involves long lead times.
Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523
Photo by: Alpine
According to Szafnauer, Renault’s lack of understanding of this process meant he could not get this message across to his bosses.
“There are pockets of the organization that the skill level is at a very rudimentary level and that’s because the people they have there were college graduates, for example, as opposed to someone with 25 years of knowledge.
“It is in these areas that I started recruiting, but the best in Formula 1 are usually on long-term contracts, at least three years.
“I was able to convince quite a few people in areas that we needed to step up, but unfortunately some will come in the fall of ’23, most of them in mid-’24 and some in 2025, and that’s what I’m trying to do. to explain that: “Look, it’s happening, it’s coming, and sometimes you take half a step back to take two steps forward.
“And they just didn’t have that understanding. Either it was impatience or it was emotion, but certainly no understanding and unfortunately that’s what they need and that’s what they’re going to find.”
Szafnauer added that the interference from the Renault group was “more than I have ever seen before”, with various departments reporting not directly to him but to his superiors.
“The parent company wanted to have a lot of control over many areas of the racing team, more than I’ve ever seen before,” he explained.
“The commercial area, the marketing area, HR, finance, communication, all of that reported not to me but around me, to someone else in the larger organization, and they all operate like a navy, and we have to be pirates to to win.
“It’s not okay at all because if you’re going to hire someone and you have to close the contract within a day because that’s what we do in Formula 1, you can’t take two weeks.
“If it takes you two weeks, maybe that special recruit went somewhere else. You must be pirates.”
SiriusXM’s full Szafnauer interview airs Thursday night at 6 p.m. ET on Cars & Culture with Jason Stein, on SiriusXM Business Radio channel 132.
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