In what has been an extremely busy month for Alpine, we have seen another reshuffle of their leadership. Did these recent replacements unsettle the team and send them tumbling into turmoil?
In July alone the French outfit has seen their former CEO, Laurent Rossi, removed from his role at the top as well as the dismissal and departure of key personnel such as Otmar Szafnauer (Team Principal), Alan Permane (Sporting Director), and Pat Fry (Chief Technical Officer). In fact, Alpine has had 7 of the team’s most significant figures leave over the past 12 months. Despite all their shortcomings, the one thing the team never falls short of is drama, which only serves to reinforce their rising reputation of a team on a downward spiral.
The rebrand from Renault to Alpine should have ushered in a new dawn for the Enstone-based team. With Szafnauer at the helm, the team was looking to build themselves up into competitors that could capitalise on the impending regulation change and continue their progress to close the gap to the top teams. However, before they could put their plan into action Alonso announced his shock exit from the team which was followed by the chaotic departure of their former reserve driver, Oscar Piastri. Now I won’t go over the silly season fiasco of 2022, but in essence, it took Alpine from a team on the rise to a team in ruin in the space of a couple of tweets. The entire prospect of the team shifted after this, there was no longer a future that was set in stone but instead Alpine were rushing to salvage anything they could from the fallout. It was unclear what their driver lineup would be heading into 2023 and the leadership at the top looked to be on shaky grounds.
Did Alpine manage to save their 2023 season?
Well, yes. Alpine managed to hold off McLaren in 2022 and finish 4th in the Constructor Standings. As we went into 2023, history looked to be repeating itself, the first race of the year saw McLaren get off to a less than stellar start, only bolstering Alpine’s hopes that not only would they be able to maintain their stronghold of P4 in 2023, but there was a possibility that they could challenge further up if they continued in the right direction.
As teams were still grappling with the new regulations, we heard the likes of McLaren admit that they were “not entirely happy” with their launch spec, this should have provided teams such as Alpine with an optimal opportunity to bag as many points as possible whilst their competition was down and out. However, as the pressure ramped up the cracks began to show.
The string of sub-par performances in a car that seemingly started the season so well began to catch up with the team and their results. As the development war began it became more and more apparent that Alpine could not keep up, they’d not only been overtaken by McLaren halfway into the season, but they had also dropped down to P6 in the Constructor Standings without much hope of clawing their way back.
So, what’s caused this drastic drop in performance?
When a team underperforms in the way Alpine has been doing, it’s easy to point fingers at the car or drivers in the first instance but with Alpine the biggest anchor that’s sinking their ship is the leadership.
The parting of ways between Alpine and Alain Prost should have served as one of the earlier warning signs as the four-time world champion was not shy in letting his feeling about the former CEO be known. Prost was quick to point out that felt as though Rossi had “no respect” and now a year later we are seeing the pitfalls of Alpine’s leadership come to fruition.
Following the Miami Grand Prix, the former CEO had a few harsh words for the team as he publicly lambasted them in an interview stating that there had been “a lot of excuses, which lead to poor performance and a lack of operational excellence.” This public putdown received a wave of backlash and Rossi was subsequently removed from the role of CEO.
As we witness a team in crisis it’s obvious that there will be no quick solutions to this long-standing problem, but is there a chance that this extensive overhaul of those at the top is exactly what the team needs right now?
We’ve seen the likes of Ferrari suffer big losses on track from incompetent team decisions, many have noted that the only way to fix Ferrari would be the completely alter the structure and personnel in the team. Alpine look to have taken this advice but will it pay off in the long run?
There’s no telling as to whether this is the right direction that the team is heading in, but one thing’s for certain, they are drowning at the moment as the instability at the top has left no one to captain the ship. Alpine look to be operating in an aimless direction at the moment and they are desperately in need of guidance that steers them back on the right path.