Szafnauer fires broadside at Renault over F1 failings: ‘You’ve got to be pirates’

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Former Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer has taken aim at parent company Renault after his departure from the outfit.

Szafnauer left his position after the Belgian Grand Prix along with Sporting Director Alan Permane as part of a major overhaul of management at the French manufacturer that has seen Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi moved aside and put onto ‘special projects’, with Philippe Krief taking over and VP Motorsport Bruno Famin taking interim charge of F1 matters.

“The parent company wanted to have a lot of control in a lot of areas of the racing team,” Szafnauer told SiriusXM.

“More than I’ve ever seen before: the commercial area, the marketing area, HR, finance, communication, all that stuff reported not to me, but around me, to somebody else in the bigger organisation and they all act like a navy and we have to be pirates in order to win.

“So if you say all else equal – the cars [are] equal, the drivers are equal, the powertrain’s equal, your knowledge of the tyres is… but what isn’t equal is the fact that a Mercedes or a Red Bull have HR, finance – especially finance now because of the cost cap – all the commercial aspects and communication reporting to Christian (Horner) and we don’t… guess who’s going win? Red Bull.

“And when you look at it that way, it’s really, really easy to understand.

“If you don’t look at it that way, then you can convince yourself that, ‘Oh yeah, that’s ok. It’s ok that HR doesn’t report through the Team Principal’.

“It’s not ok. It’s not ok at all because if you’re going to hire somebody and you’ve got to get a contract out 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 hire went somewhere else. You’ve got to be pirates.”

That’s not how it works

Szafnauer only joined Alpine early last season after the dismissal of predecessor Marcin Budkowski but his own departure has left questions as to the direction of the F1 operation.

“I think the senior management at Renault, the CEO, Luca de Meo, wants, as everyone does in Formula 1, success instantly and unfortunately, that’s not how it works,” added Szafnauer.

“So I pointed out to him that it takes time and the process of doing it, what’s required, and having raced for 34 years – and 26 years of it in Formula 1 – I think I speak with a degree of experience when I say ‘this is what it takes to turn a team around’ and they wanted to do it faster than is possible.

“I couldn’t agree to an unrealistic timeline because if you do that, it’s only a matter of time and everyone gets frustrated, so I laid out a very realistic and possible plan and I think they wanted to shortcut that plan with somebody else.”

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