Alpine has undergone a leadership shakeup: out go Otmar Szafnauer (team principal), Alan Permane (sporting director), and Pat Fry (technical director), after the brand’s CEO, Laurent Rossi, was removed to make way for Philippe Krief.
A summer storm has hit Enstone. And this time, it has nothing to do with climate changes, as Luca De Meo, President and CEO of the Renault Group, has catalyzed turmoil within a team that seems incapable of growth in Formula 1 and is, in fact, losing competitiveness: last year, they ended up fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, and now they’re sixth, with just over half the points of the preceding McLaren.
In short, it’s a true disaster compared to expectations of a gradual approach to the top teams, so much so that Pierre Gasly’s podium in the Sprint Race at Spa-Francorchamps, immediately following the announcement of the leadership changes, carries a highly symbolic value, signifying a change begun with an axe. The methods haven’t been well-received and have somewhat unnerved those who should be part of the “reconstruction.”
Some highlight the fact that Luca De Meo’s drastic action may also be the result of unwavering support from Otro Capital, RedBird Capital Partners, and Maximum Effort Investments, partners that acquired 24 percent of the shares for a value of $200 million. Gerry Cardinale, CEO of RedBird Capital Partners, whom AC Milan fans are well familiar with as his fund controls the football team, supported De Meo’s idea of turning Alpine around rapidly.
Now, the rebuilding phase must begin, and there’s much curiosity about who will be at the helm of the team. Bruno Famin, a long-serving captain at Peugeot Sport before becoming Vice President of Alpine Motorsport in July, had been responsible for operations within the FIA since 2019. The Frenchman possesses the experience to redesign the structures of Viry Chatillon (power unit) and Enstone (chassis and aerodynamics).
Bruno has temporarily taken on the role of team principal, which will soon be handed over to the person set to lead the new course, as the Frenchman will need to oversee Alpine’s debut in WEC in 2024 and then the Dakar Rally from 2025. The top name on De Meo’s list to take charge of the F1 team is that of Mattia Binotto, also rumored to become the Formula 1 Technical Director, essentially the right-hand man to Stefano Domenicali, following Ross Brawn’s departure.
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The Americans at Liberty Media reportedly pointed out to the Imola-born manager that the Italian presence in F1’s management is quite extensive, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if Mattia Binotto finds his home in Alpine at the beginning of next year, once the gardening leave period ends after leaving Ferrari, i.e., at the start of 2024.
And the persistent rumors of Mattia potentially becoming the team principal of the blue team should stir things up in Maranello: the Racing Department is closed until midnight on Saturday, August 19, and from Sunday, August 20, preparations for the cars to be sent to Zandvoort will begin. However, whispers around the Maranello suggest that a group of engineers, specialists in various areas of the power unit, might move from the engine department led by Enrico Gualtieri, according to Motorsport Italy.
After the FIA’s intervention, which blocked Alpine’s attempt to claim an alignment of its power with other engines, admitting to being about 30 horsepower behind the best unit, the French brand’s interest in bringing specialists to Viry Chatillon to work on fine-tuning the engine, despite it being frozen, is growing.
Neither the head of the department, Enrico Gualtieri, who is heavily involved in defining next year’s red car, nor Wolf Zimmermann, who is the project leader for the 2026 unit, are likely to be part of the move. But significant movements might occur around these two pillars of the Ferrari team. Highly advantageous financial offers, with substantial salary increases, are being discussed, which might motivate some members of the Scuderia to head to Paris…