Monday, May 27, 2024

Szafnauer Critical of Management Team at Renault and Unrealistic Success Targets

Otmar Szafnauer has again hit out at the management team at Renault Sport, feeling they do not understand what it takes to build a successful FIA Formula 1 World Championship team.

Szafnauer was informed that his services as Team Principal of the BWT Alpine F1 Team were no longer required prior to the Belgian Grand Prix last month, and he was followed out of the Enstone-based team by Sporting Director Alan Permane.

Other recent moves have seen Laurent Rossi depart as Alpine CEO and Bruno Famin installed as interim Team Principal as Renault CEO Luca de Meo rung the changes at a team currently languishing sixth in the Constructors’ Championship.

Szafnauer says the current management team within Renault wanted immediate success but the American said that in Formula 1 this is not possible, hence why he was removed from his position.

“I think the senior management at Renault, CEO Luca de Meo, as everyone does in F1, wants success instantly and unfortunately, that’s not how it works in F1,” said Szafnauer to SiriusXM.

“They wanted to do it faster than is possible and I couldn’t agree to an unrealistic timeline because if you do that, it’s only a matter of time and everyone gets frustrated, so I laid out a very realistic and possible plan and I think they wanted to shortcut that plan with somebody else.”

Szafnauer was also insistent that the skill level within Alpine was not as strong as it could be, with many recent college graduates filling positions that could have benefitted from more experience, and he was in the process of hiring people to come in when he was released.

“There are pockets of the organisation that the skill level is at a very elementary level and that’s because the people they have there were college graduates, for example, as opposed to somebody with 25 years of knowledge,” added the American.

“It was in those areas that I started to recruit, but the best in Formula 1 are usually on long-term contracts, at least three years.

“I was able to convince quite a few people in areas that we needed to bolster, but unfortunately they were to come some in the autumn of ’23, most of them mid ’24 and some of them in 2025, and that’s what I try to explain that: ‘Look, it’s happening, it’s coming and sometimes you take a half step backwards to take two forward.

“And they just didn’t have that understanding. Either it was impatience or it was emotion, but definitely no understanding and unfortunately that’s what it takes and that’s what they’ll find.”

Szafnauer was also amazed that interference from Renault management was ‘more than I’ve ever seen before’, and he found that some departments were reporting not to him but to them despite him meaning to be in charge of the race team.

“The parent company wanted to have a lot of control in a lot of areas of the racing team, more than I’ve ever seen before,” he said.  

“The commercial area, the marketing area, HR, finance, communication, all that stuff reported not to me but around me, to somebody else in the bigger organisation, and they all act like a Navy, and we have to be pirates in order to win.

“It’s not okay at all because if you’re going to hire somebody and you’ve got to get a contract out within a day because that’s what we do in Formula 1, you can’t take two weeks.

“If it takes you two weeks, maybe that special hire went somewhere else. You’ve got to be pirates.”