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Formula 1 Hungarian GP

Szafnauer trusts Renault boss de Meo to give him time

Alpine Formula 1 team principal Otmar Szafnauer says he trusts Renault CEO Luca de Meo to “be true to his word” and give him 100 races to find success.

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1 Team, in the Team Principals Press Conference

The number was announced as the timeline for Alpine to work its way to the front of the F1 field after Szafnauer was put in charge of the Enstone team at the start of 2022.

However, a recent management reshuffle at Renault’s Alpine division has seen the sportscar company’s former CEO Laurent Rossi moved aside.

Given that Rossi hired Szafnauer there has been some speculation about the latter’s position as boss of the F1 team, with the first-corner clash and double retirement for Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in Hungary adding to a recent run of disappointment.

However, Szafnauer insists that he expects Renault’s overall boss de Meo to stick to the originally announced schedule, and give him enough time to turn the team around.

“You’ve got to remember that Laurent is doing special projects now,” said Szafnauer when asked by Motorsport.com about the impact of Rossi’s move. “Yes, he did hire me, but Luca also hired me, and it was Luca de Meo who ultimately sat down with me and convinced me to join his project.

“And the project was the Alpine project with the 100-race plan, and I think we are 30-something races into that. So we still have some 60-odd races to go, and that is another three years to go to start winning.

“It takes time. It has taken everybody time. I know Luca is a man of his word, and he gave me his word on 100 races to start winning, and sometimes you take a half-step backwards to take two steps forward.

“So I have no concern that Luca will be true to his word and give me the 100-races time that is required.”

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Photo by: Alpine

Szafnauer stressed that others took time to create successful projects: “As you know, Mercedes bought a championship-winning team, and it took them five years to win it again.

“Red Bull, they’ve done well, they bought Jaguar which was a mid-grid team, and it took them five years to start winning.

“It seems like that’s what it takes, so it is four to five years. One hundred races is realistic. We are still working at it.”

Szafnauer acknowledged that with such projects stable leadership can be a key factor, with Toto Wolff at Mercedes and Christian Horner at Red Bull both enjoying long stints in charge.

“Stability in general in these types of teams, when you are leading 950-1000 people, is very, very critical,” he said.

“And the reason for that is we are all trying to establish the best teams that we can, and we go around to understand who the good people are in areas that we are lacking.

“A team principal goes a long way in trying to convince them to join the team, and if Toto said, ‘Hey come join me from wherever but I am going to leaving in six months or a year and a half,’ then people who waver on if they want to join.

“Christian and Toto have been there a long time, and what that does is it enhances and assists recruitment for the right people.”

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