Alpine's avalanche: Last one to leave turns off the lights

Szafnauer takes the helm

Former Aston Martin team boss Otmar Szafnauer was entrusted with the day-to-day running of the outfit at the start of 2022, the seasoned American working alongside longtime team stalwart and sporting director Alan Permane.

With two knowledgeable and experienced F1 veterans at the helm, the appointments suggested Alpine had finally worked out what was needed to get serious about success.

In Szafnauer, Alpine could rely on a man who had been in F1 since 1998, first at BAR and Honda before joining Force India in 2009, where he played an integral role in pulling the team together and propelling it to sixth in the 2011 Constructors' championship.

They were fourth in 2016 and 2017 in an era dominated by the 'Big Three' (Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull) despite the team's behind the scenes problems with owner Vijay Mallya that ended with it going into administration in 2018.

Alpine now had a leader who had been through a similar nightmare to the Lotus/Renault crisis, and who played a key role in launching a rejuvenated Aston Martin.

Szafnauer was perfect for the job - provided that the higher powers at Renault let him get on with it. Unfortunately, Rossi seemed reluctant to give up the reins he had become accustomed to holding in the meantime.

The question of who was really in charge at the team erupted in July 2022 when Alonso announced his transfer to Aston Martin for the following season, the Spaniard later complaining that Alpine hadn't been committed to serious talks on extending his contract.

Alpine promptly announced that Oscar Piastri would be their new driver - only to be told over social media that no, the Aussie absolutely wouldn't, as he was off to McLaren. Alpine had monumentally screwed up the legal side of their driver contracts and it was down to Rossi, who hadn't thought to keep Szafnauer in the loop while the new principal was getting his feet under the table

A string of trackside gaffes at the start of the 2023 season didn't help, further infuriating Rossi who - having laid low since the contracts debacle, but perhaps now sensing his own job was on the line - issued a searing public condemnation of the F1 operation.

It set Rossi on a collision course with Szafnauer and Permane, while anyone with any sense (like Pat Fry) could see the writing on the wall and were already busy exploring escape routes.