Esteban Ocon managed to steer his Alpine team through a perceived disagreement between its bosses, ultimately helping to restore the Renault-owned team’s performance in Monaco.
During a recent event in Miami, it became evident that Otmar Szafnauer, the newly-appointed team boss for 2022, was under scrutiny as Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi singled him out for criticism amidst the team’s inability to improve for the upcoming 2023 season.
Rossi used strong language such as “dilettantes” and “amateurish” to describe the Enstone-based team, and specifically pointed the finger at Szafnauer as the man in charge.
When asked about it in Monaco, Szafnauer admitted he would need to make changes.
“We hit most of our targets, not all of them, over the winter,” he said, “and for us to hit all of them we have to make some changes within the organisation.
“Those changes are coming.”
On track, French driver Esteban Ocon had the perfect response – a P3 start on the grid, and third at the chequered flag in Monaco.
When asked what the result means in the context of CEO Rossi’s recent outbursts, Ocon said: “Why everyone is delighted, that’s for sure.
“Formula 1 is unpredictable,” he added. “You don’t know what’s going to happen and at the moment, with how tight the field is, a little bit more pace can change your weekend completely.
“As I keep saying, we keep pushing, we don’t stop believing and hopefully that’s the first podium of many,” Ocon said.
And yet, in the background, it is not clear if the podium will improve the apparently strained relationship between team boss Szafnauer and CEO Rossi.
Szafnauer indicated that he’s not particularly comfortable with the basic management structure at Alpine.
For example, while Zak Brown is CEO of McLaren Racing, McLaren’s executive chairman of the entire McLaren Group is Paul Walsh. Similarly, Toto Wolff is in charge of Mercedes’ works F1 team but the Mercedes company is separate.
Rossi, on the other hand, is CEO of Alpine Cars, he is also CEO of the F1 team – sharing power in the paddock with Szafnauer.
“Well, the structure is a little bit different than what I’m used to in the past,” said Szafnauer, who arrived at Alpine early last year from Aston Martin.
“From a technical perspective, we do make the decisions and we need to be able to put the tools in place, the right people in place in order for success. And we’re working on that.”