“There was a lot of amateurism” says the Renault CEO. Alpine team boss Szafnauer reacts to criticism; insisting that criticism does not add any further pressure after CEO Laurent Rossi had recently complained loudly about the team’s lack of results this year.
Rossi was far from impressed with the triple penalty that Esteban Ocon collected in Bahrain and the problems that marred the Baku weekend.
“I didn’t like the first Grand Prix because there was a lot of – I’m sorry to say this – amateurism that led to a result that was not okay. It was mediocre, bad. And the race in Baku was very similar to the one in Bahrain. That is not acceptable,” was the Alpine CEO’s verdict.
Rossi names Szafnauer in public
Further Rossi has set his sights on his team principal who he is holding to account.
“He is responsible for the performance of the team – that’s his job,” Rossi told F1.com.
“Otmar was brought in to steer the team, through the season and the next seasons towards the objectives that we have, which is to constantly make progress, as we did in the first two years – fifth and fourth – and to get to the podiums and therefore, this is his mission to turn this team around and bring it to the performance that we want.
“We had a team that performed reasonably well last year, got the fourth position which is the best improvement we had in a long time. It showed a lot of promise.
Rossi threatens heads will roll soon
“The team managed to get fourth. They have the means to get fourth, more so than others. I want them to be fourth. If they don’t, it’s going to be a failure.
“If they fail by giving 500% best and turning this ship around, there will be extenuating circumstances and it bodes well for the future. If not, it’s the rule of business, there’s going to be consequences.
“And I won’t wait until the end of the year.
This remarkable outburst which names Szafnauer as “responsible” can only mean one thing. Laurent Rossi is looking for a scapegoat with the Renault motor company main board for the failure of his 100 race project.
Given the public lambasting, it is hard to see Szafnauer being still in charge come the next Grand Prix 10 days from now in Imola.
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Szafnauer admits: “Not a smooth start to the season”.
Despite the remarkable comments that caused a stir on the sidelines of the Miami Grand Prix, Szafnauer insists that such criticisms do absolutely nothing to change the determination within the team to do better.
“When we read something like that on paper, it doesn’t put any more pressure on us,” the team boss insists. “Everyone wants to do well here. We have a lot of experience, technicians and engineers at the highest level, and we put pressure on ourselves. So we just have to get it right.”
Szafnauer adds that it is clear to him and his team that Alpine has fallen far short of expectations so far this season, even without Rossi’s recent comments.
“We underperformed in Baku. In Australia, drivers clashed and in the first race we had a myriad of penalties, starting with Esteban not standing properly on his grid position,” he recaps. “It wasn’t a smooth start to the season, and maybe that’s why he (Rossi; ed.) made the comments he did. But I have yet to read his comments carefully.”
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Can Alpine learn from its mistakes?
Szafnauer was not yet able to answer directly in Miami why the Alpine CEO had made such public and drastic comments.
“I have no idea and you have to ask him. I will ask him anyway. There was so much going on this weekend that I haven’t had a chance to talk about it yet.”
The priority for the team now, according to the team boss, is to learn from everything that went wrong this year and make changes to the procedures and infrastructure so that the mistakes and problems are not repeated.
“All we can do when we have problems like we had in Baku is to find the cause and understand why it happened and make sure we change either the process or the people so it doesn’t happen again.”
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