Szafnauer says Alpine CEO criticism cuts no ice with him

Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Alpine F1 Team, Team Principal plays American Football 04.05.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Miami Grand Prix, Miami, Florida, USA, Preparation Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images
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Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer says that recent scathing comments from CEO Laurent Rossi about the team's performance has had no effect on him - and insisted he didn't even know what his boss had been telling the media.

“I saw that you wrote something because I saw the headline, but I haven't had time to read it,” he told the media in Miami on Sunday.

“It hasn't been a smooth start to the season and maybe that's why he made the comments," he acknowledged. "But I have to read them.”.

The season started with Pierre Gasly finishing in P9 in Bahrain and again in Saudi Arabia, where Esteban Ocon was eighth. But Australia saw the drivers take each other out in a chaotic late restart when both had been in the top ten.

The Azerbaijan GP was another low point, with Gasly and Ocon finishing in 14th and 15th, which led to Rossi's critical comments made to French broadcaster Canal+ at the weekend before the latest race.

Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Alpine F1 Team, Team Principal (Left) and Laurent Rossi (FRA) Alpine Chief Executive Officer (Right). 05.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Rossi complained about "an obvious lack of performance and rigour in the delivery, but also potentially a state of mind that is not up to this team's past standards."

He added: "There was a lot of – I'm sorry for saying this – amateurishness, which led to a result that wasn't right. It was mediocre, bad," he fumed. “That is not acceptable.”

The atmosphere at Alpine's base in Enstone might be somewhat better this week after Gasly and Ocon were both in the points in Miami. But it's still led to a degree of awkwardness for Szafnauer who joined the team at the start of 2022.

Previously CEO at Aston Martin, Szafnauer said that such comments weren't useful or helpful in motivating the squad to do better in future, but was confident that they wouldn't damage morale.

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523. 07.05.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Miami Grand Prix, Miami, Florida, USA, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

“Reading something like that on paper puts no more pressure," he stated. “Everyone wants to do well here. We're very well experienced, with technicians and engineers at the highest level, and we put pressure on ourselves.

"We just have to fix it," he acknowledged. "We underperformed in Baku. The drivers ran into each other in Australia. And I think at the first race, we had a myriad of penalties starting with Esteban being out of place [on the grid].

“We had an engine fire on one side, and we've got to make sure that doesn't happen. And then we had some finger trouble on the other side.

"With finger trouble, once you understand how it happens, there's ways to mitigate that. That's what we'll do. We've done it already. It didn't happen [in Miami].”

(L to R): Frederic Vasseur (FRA) Ferrari Team Principal with Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Alpine F1 Team, Team Principal on the grid. 07.05.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Miami Grand Prix, Miami, Florida, USA, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

"All we can do when we have issues like Baku is find and understand the root cause of why it happened, and make sure we either put the process or the people in place so that it doesn't happen again,”

Asked by what he thought was behind Rossi's public outburst and whether it might be the prelude to changes at Enstone, Szafnauer could only shrug.

"I have no idea and you'll have to ask him," he said. "I'll be asking him. This weekend was so busy that I haven't had a chance to discuss it."

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