Alpine already making changes before Rossi’s strong criticism

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer didn’t expect to read CEO Laurent Rossi’s stinging criticism of their performances, but said they were already making changes to address their recent errors.

Rossi slated the team’s Bahrain and Azerbaijan grands prix, which he described as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘amateurish’.

“I read it just like you did,” said Szafnauer when asked about Rossi’s remarks in yesterday’s FIA press conference in Monaco. “So I didn’t have an idea beforehand.”

The team’s season got off to a difficult start in Bahrain where a combination of mistakes and operational errors saw Esteban Ocon, who had qualified ninth, receive a trio of penalties. The Azerbaijan weekend was a nightmare for the team, blighted by unreliability and crashes.

Szafnauer acknowledged the team’s poor performances but said efforts were already underway to make improvements before Rossi’s criticism earlier this month.

“In the first races we had a couple of good ones, up and down, and a couple of them that should have gone better. When we make mistakes, or when team members make mistakes, we have to make sure we understand the root cause of those mistakes, and then put countermeasures in place so that we never do them again.”

Szafnauer said the team “hit most of our targets – not all of them – over the winter, and for us to hit all of them we have to do some make some changes within the organisation and those are those changes are coming.”

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The limitations imposed on teams by the budget cap and Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions means they cannot transform their operations as quickly as they used to, said Szafnauer.

“Changes were in progress already. It just takes time. We all know it’s a huge team effort and we have very, very talented engineers that work really hard within the regulations.

“We’re capped on ATR, we’re capped on how much time we can spend in the tunnel or in CFD. So, it’s not a matter of working harder or working more, like it was in the past.

“I remember the days of Brawn [previously owned by Honda] when I was there, we were running three [wind] tunnels. You can’t run three tunnels anymore.

“So it’s not a matter of quantity. It’s a matter of quality, and getting the right quality takes time, and that’s people. So we’ve got the plans in place, we’re talking to the right people. It just takes time.”

Alpine named Szafnauer as its new team principal in February last year. The team in its various guises has changed its leadership more often than any of its rivals over the last 15 years. But Szanfauer said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure as a result of Rossi’s strong words.

“I’ve been there just over a year now and I spent the first six, seven, eight months assessing deeply as to the team, the structure, how it operates, how it functions, the good, the bad, the indifferent, and I have a good understanding. I’ve been doing this for 25 years at a very senior level and I know what it takes to move a team from, say, last to fourth or mid-grid to second. So I have an understanding and the plans are in place.

“Added pressure? Look, it’s Formula 1. We put pressure on ourselves if we’re not winning, we all do, so I think everybody in this room – we don’t have Red Bull here, Red Bull are happy and the rest of us are working hard to catch up.”

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