Szafnauer: Aston Martin fate sealed when responsibilities taken away

Alpine Formula 1 boss Otmar Szafnauer says his switch from Aston Martin last winter was sealed when his old team told him he was effectively no longer in charge of the squad.

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1

The Romanian-born American has moved to Alpine as part of a management shake-up at the Enstone-based squad ahead of the 2022 season, after being at his previous squad for more than a decade.

Reflecting on the change of teams, which came despite him having a contract in place and being firm it was always his intention to stay, Szafnauer said the crunch point came at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when he was told his influence at Aston Martin was to be limited.

Speaking ahead of the F1 season opener, Szafnauer said his future was set once he realised that he could not continue doing the team principal job at Aston Martin as he had intended.

“They made it very clear to me that the responsibilities that I used to have before, were never given back,” he said.

“And once I learned that, then it was really time to move. It was at the last race. I was told: you used to be able to run the team but you're not running it any more.”

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A522

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A522

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Szafnauer said that the attitude of Aston Martin was completely at odds with how Alpine was approaching things – as it made clear they wanted him to have complete control.

“All my discussions with the seniors here, they said: ‘look, the reason we want you to come is because of all your experience in F1. And we want you to apply that to Alpine, and help us in our aim to win races.'

“When the fellows that are hiring you say that, then you feel very confident that that's what they're hiring you for. They want your experience. So that's why I went with the experience.”

Asked if he would have stayed at Aston Martin if it had not removed his responsibility, Szafnauer said: “I had a contract. So I had no reason [to leave] had the responsibilities not been taken away from me, I would have stayed.”

While Szafnauer joined Alpine a few weeks ago, he is clear that he wants to take his time understanding the team’s strengths and weaknesses before pushing through with any changes.

“I haven't done anything yet,” he said. “I've said this in the past, and I applied it, and I'll say it again, a team like this has some great capabilities and great people and smart people.

“What I need to do is have a good assessment of everything because, if you just start making change for the sake of change, you could get it wrong.

“You shouldn't make change for the sake of change. You need to have a really, really good assessment, and then say: okay, with all my experience, these areas I've seen at other teams are better, and they bring performance. So let's try to bolster these areas. Then, these other areas are great.

“There are areas that I have seen already where we have to take steps forward, but I'm still in the assessment mode.”

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