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Pierre Gasly & Esteban Ocon Expose Otmar Szafnauer’s Critical Fault That Caused Alpine to Fire Him

Published 02/25/2024, 7:21 AM EST

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“BWT Alpine F1 Team announces today it will part ways with Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer by mutual agreement following the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix.” On the Friday of F1’s 2023 trip to Spa-Francorchamps, Alpine put out this statement. However, in doing so, it broke a promise made to Szafnauer. 100 races. That’s how long Alpine management gave Szafnauer to get the team to the front of the grid. But even before he reached the 40-race mark, he got his two days’ notice. As it turns out, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon pointed out just where their boss was going wrong even before his sacking.

In the 7th episode of Drive to Survive: Season 6, the focus is on Alpine. The Enstone-Viry team came into 2023 after quite an impressive 2022 season. The team finished P4 in the Constructors’ Championship, and their aim for last season was to match that – or better it. So, before the season started, Szafnauer stated, “We have just under 80 races left on this mission. I have high expectations from everyone in the team who will work collaboratively to deliver the best possible results for the team.” While his drivers were doing all they could, Szafnauer wasn’t living up to the high expectations he’d set.

Two races before the Belgian GP, Pierre Gasly told Netflix, “Something is not clicking somewhere. Clearly, the communication hasn’t been to the best level.” Explaining the core issue, he added, I think it’s very important, as a team principal, to understand what your drivers actually need. So now [we] need to do the work and deliver.” The Frenchman evidently wasn’t happy with how things were moving, especially when it came to getting what he wanted. And Esteban Ocon had something similar to say.

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The main problem, according to Ocon, was the management not listening to the drivers. “It’s important to work well, you know, inside the team. To have a close relationship, in a way. To talk about the things that are important. At the moment, we are not doing that. No one is happy inside the team. I think Otmar needs to find out some solutions.” After all, communication is key. But that’s precisely what Szafnauer couldn’t master, considering it’s the team principal’s job to make sure the drivers get what they need to perform.

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As for the team’s performance, Otmar Szafnauer slowly started to realize that getting to the front within 100 races was a mammoth ask. But Alpine didn’t look at it that way. Following the sacking, Alpine’s current team principal, Bruno Famin, took over. He explained, “When we realized we were very far from our performance goals, we talked with Otmar and the top management, and we realized we weren’t on the same page about the way to change things. So we agreed, it was better to go our separate ways.”

However, that didn’t work out too well for the Enstone-Viry team either. At the end of the season, Alpine could only manage a P6 in the Constructors’ Championship, miles away from Aston Martin in P5. With Gasly and Ocon expressing their unhappiness last year, the team would hope to have a better 2024 outing. But how are things looking after pre-season testing?

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Pierre Gasly is not happy with the A524

Following three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain, Pierre Gasly admitted that the team’s car isn’t performing as well as expected ahead of the 2024 F1 season. Although testing didn’t go according to plan, he spoke about everything going on with the team on Sky TV. As quoted by Motorsport.com, he revealed, “I don’t think we look great. But at the same time, we still have a couple of days to really understand everything we’ve done.”

Despite the car’s current state, Gasly is optimistic about the team’s ability to improve before the first race. The plan is to get everything ready before the lights go out in Bahrain on Saturday to see how the team can cope with a tough start. He added, I think we’ll have to be patient, even if it’s not what we like as drivers. But clearly, it might take some time before we really unlock the performance we want from that car.”

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Gasly believes Alpine will start the season on the back foot and acknowledged that they won’t be where they ideally want to be. That being said, do you think Alpine has what it takes to challenge the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull in the future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Written by:

Viren Mirpuri

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Viren Mirpuri is an F1 Writer at EssentiallySports. With a Degree in Mass Media and a Specialization in Journalism, Viren is known for his speedy race day coverage outside of discussing the engine technicalities. Whether he's dissecting the latest technical innovations or unraveling the drama on and off the track, he ensures that his readers stay engaged and informed.
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Edited by:

Akash Pandhare