Budkowski: Abiteboul's abrupt departure was a shock

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The entire world of motorsport had been very much caught by surprise by Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul's departure from his position at Enstone at the start of January.

He had been expected to play a key role with the team when it transitioned to a new name for 2021 as Alpine F1.

Instead, the 43-year-old Frenchman walked away from the team with immediate effect. He's yet to reveal his future plans, although RaceFan's Dieter Rencken suggested recently that he may be headed to Alfa Romeo in an unknown capacity.

Meanwhile Alpine is yet to appoint a direct successor as team principal. Davide Brivio has been recruited from MotoGP to serve as racing director taking charge of trackside operations, with executive director Marcin Budkowski in charge of chassis and powertrain development.

Budkowski himself admitted this week that Abiteboul's exit from the team had taken him by surprise every bit as much as it had everyone else.

"It obviously was a surprise and a shock to everyone when we found out," the former FIA technical and sporting coordinator told French media during the launch of the team's new car this week.

"Cyril in his role had been struggling to come to Enstone regularly anyway, thanks to COVID," he added. "But we were ready for the season anyway, the project was very committed."

He said that the appointment of Laurent Rossi as the team's new CEO had helped the transition take place quickly and smoothly.

"We reorganised ourselves very quickly, we have a new team and we have clear, unchanged goals," he explained. "We've got a new management team in place, and Laurent's arrival was announced.

Cyril Abiteboul (FRA) Renault Sport F1 Managing Director. 24.10.2020.

"Laurent recently came to Enstone for a few days, during which he met a lot of people, saw the car, saw the development project, and was briefed on what we're doing for 2022."

The team is looking forward to the return of Fernando Alonso who will line-up alongside Esteban Ocon after Daniel Ricciardo's decision to move on to McLaren in place of Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz.

“It’s a great line-up," said Budkowski "Fernando’s motivation is incredible and observing him driving and working with his engineers at the Abu Dhabi test last year was nothing short of impressive. He has the professionalism of an experienced driver combined with the hunger of a young driver."

Alonso was forced to miss this week's launch event after being injured in a training accident. However the two-time world champion has said he is feeling fit and well ahead of the start of pre-season testing.

"I feel great and in the best shape I’ve ever been before both physically and mentally," he said in a Q&A released by the team. "I’ve been preparing myself for this comeback for quite a while now and I have a fresh motivation. I’m ready!"

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