“When I found out, it was time to go!” declared the Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer as the former team principal for Lawrence Stroll spills the beans on Aston Martin in the press. Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer says his departure from Aston Martin was sealed in the winter of 2021 when his old team told him he was no longer in charge of the team.
The Romanian-born American moved to Alpine ahead of the 2022 season as part of a management restructure at the Enstone-based team after more than a decade with his previous team.
Looking back on the team change, which came despite an existing contract and a firm intention to stay, Szafnauer says the sticking point was at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when he was told that his future influence at Aston Martin would be limited.
Responsibility was taken away from me
Szafnauer says his future was set when he realised he could no longer do the team principal’s job at Aston Martin in the way he had imagined.
“They made it very clear to me that I would never get back the responsibility I had before,” he says.
“And when I found that out, it was really time to go. That was at the last race. I was told: you used to be able to run the team, but you’re not running it now.”
The American has previously spoken of a situation of “two popes” at Aston Martin when Martin Whitmarsh was installed as group CEO in October 2021.
Szafnauer also says that Aston Martin’s attitude is completely at odds with Alpine’s approach, as they give him complete control of the team.
“I would have stayed with Aston Martin”
“In all my conversations with the people in charge here, they said, ‘Look, the reason we want you here is because of all your experience in Formula One. And we want you to bring that experience to Alpine and help us with our goal of winning races.'”
“When the people who hire you say that, you feel very confident that that’s exactly why they’re hiring you. They want your experience. That’s why I went for the experience.”
Asked if he would have stayed at Aston Martin if the team hadn’t taken away his responsibilities, Szafnauer replies, “I had a contract. So I had no reason [to leave], if they hadn’t taken the responsibility away from me I would have stayed.”
Although Szafnauer only joined Alpine at the start of 2022, he is now the team principal with the fifth-longest tenure in Formula One following the team principal roster change after the 2022 season. Only Christian Horner, Franz Tost, Toto Wolff and Günther Steiner have been with their current teams for longer.