Last month witnessed a massive overhaul at the Enstone team following the Belgian Grand Prix, which led to the departure of Team Principal, Szafnauer, and long-serving Sporting Director, Alan Permane. This was accompanied by the exit of Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi who was reassigned by Renault CEO Luca de Meo to another position outside the F1 program.
Interim Team Principal Bruno Famin, who was at Spa, stated that Szafnauer and Renault had conflicting timelines for Alpine’s five-year strategic plan to secure victories and championships. Szafnauer divulged to SiriusXM that they failed to see eye to eye with de Meo because of their unrealistic timeline and their limited understanding of what it takes to be successful in F1.
Szafnauer said, “CEO Luca de Meo, much like everyone in F1, desires quick success. Unfortunately, that’s not how things work in F1. They were in a hurry to make things happen faster than possible, and I couldn’t go along with that. If you rush things, everyone ends up disheartened. So, I proposed a plausible plan, but they were looking for a quicker alternative with someone else.”
He identified but the Renault’s impatience concerning his recruitment plans as symptomatic of the underlying issues. Szafnauer disclosed that when he joined Alpine 18 months ago, there were several gaps in the Enstone team’s knowledge. These gaps could only be bridged by attracting staff from competitor teams who usually are on long-term contracts with significant lead times involved.
However, Renault‘s lack of understanding of this process thwarted his plans. “There were departments where the level of skill was low because they were staffed by fresh graduates, unlike professionals with 25 years of experience… I was able to convince quite a few people in areas that we needed to strengthen, but unfortunately they were to come some in the autumn of ‘23, most of them mid ‘24 and some of them in 2025,” he explained.
He added that interference from the Renault group was more prevalent than what he had ever experienced before. According to Szafnauer, this meant that various departments did not report to him directly, but to his superiors. He stated, “The commercial area, the marketing area, HR, finance, communication – all of it reported not to me but around me, to someone higher up in the larger organization. They all work in a regimented structure like a Navy, whilst we have to function like pirates to win.”
The full Szafnauer interview will be broadcasted on Thursday night at 6pm ET on Cars & Culture with Jason Stein, on SiriusXM Business Radio channel 132.