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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Prost “saddened and distressed” over Alpine F1’s “huge mistake”

Four-time Formula 1 world champion Alain Prost says he is “saddened and distressed” by the “huge mistake” Alpine has made with its grand prix team.  

Alain Prost, Renault F1 Team

On a weekend when the French F1 outfit announced the exit of team principal Otmar Szafnauer and sporting director Alan Permane as part of a shake-up, Prost has voiced his dismay at what has become of the squad.  

The Frenchman, who was an advisor and non-executive director for the Renault/Alpine squad from 2015 until 2022, thinks that the French sportscar maker has made a critical error in allowing too much corporate influence. 

“I love this team, and I am saddened and distressed to see it in its current state,” he said in a lengthy interview with L’Equipe.   

“It deserves better and has everything it needs to succeed. I simply believe you need to rely on history to understand what went wrong.   

“If you look at the great success stories from the last 30 years, you will see a simple structure – unlike an industrial organisation chart – built around three or four strong personalities, coupled with a winning driver.”   

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Prost cited examples of Jean Todt working with Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, Mercedes having Toto Wolff, Niki Lauda and James Allison alongside Lewis Hamilton and Christian Horner and Adrian Newey’s alliance helping deliver titles for Red Bull with Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.  

He also said that on all occasions, the parent companies were also run by CEOs who understood and supported the efforts of the F1 team – something he thinks is sorely lacking at Renault.  

“They knew the codes of F1, and had the necessary nimbleness and flexibility to let their people make the decisions,” he said.   

“Red Bull's decision not to partner with Porsche actually stems from this refusal to yield to those overly heavy decisions from the board, from people who don't know F1.   

“In my years at Renault, how many times did I hear in the hallways of the headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt that F1 was a simple sport that could be managed from home by the men in place.   

“That was a huge mistake, as was proven with the last of the directors, Laurent Rossi, whom Luca de Meo let go a week ago.   

“Laurent Rossi is the best example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, that of an inept manager who thinks he can overcome his incompetence with his arrogance and his lack of humanity towards his people.   

“He was Alpine's boss for 18 months and thought he understood everything from the outset, yet that couldn't be further from the truth. His management stopped the momentum the team had built since 2016, achieving these podiums and that win.”  

The Dunning-Kruger effect relates to when a person’s lack of knowledge and skills in a certain area causes them to overestimate their own competence.  

While Alpine’s interim team principal Bruno Famin is convinced the squad has a plan in place to achieve success quickly in F1, Prost remains unconvinced.  

“Let's hope the decision that was made on Friday, with other people being replaced, will be a salutary shock to the team,” he said.  

“When you look back at Renault's success, you will find a man – Flavio Briatore – and a legendary driver – Fernando Alonso – supported by a management team [Patrick Faure, Louis Schweitzer] who, at the time, implemented this philosophy of quick decision-making by specialists.   

“It is amusing to see that F1 directors are often invited to conferences on management by major companies to speak about reactivity and flexibility. It rarely is the other way round…[of company managers being invited to speak about F1].”   

Additional reporting by Benjamin Vinel

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