With divisions within Alpine F1 growing, with company CEO Laurent Rossi and team principal Ottmar Zaffnauer at loggerheads in public, recent reports suggest the Frenchman has approached Mattia Binotto for second place.
Binotto stepped down as director of Scuderia Ferrari at the end of 2022 – after resigning in November last year – and this year he is taking a ‘gap’ year set into the contracts of many senior executives when they leave their teams.
The Italian is said to be close to Sauber/Audi for 2024, a team which this year is racing as Alfa Romeo F1 but will gradually transition to factory Audi until 2026. However, Italian media reports that Binotto has recently accepted an approach from to Alpine F1 to replace Zaffnauer, but the Italian turned it down.
Confidence in the management of Alpine F1 appears to have been lost between the French company’s chief executive Laurent Rossi and team principal Ottmar Zaffnauer.
Rossi has publicly criticized the team for its results in the first five F1 races of 2023, even accusing it of amateurism: “The goal was and remains fourth place”Rossi said. “This team has made progress in the past two years, and the goal remains the same, I will not settle for anything more than fourth place in the league this year.
“Aston Martin has fewer engineers than us and does not have its own wind tunnel. Infrastructure cannot be an excuse. Innovation and efficiency at work is what makes the difference. Otmar does not do everything himself, but the responsibility is his. He was hired to achieve goals that we currently do not achieve.
“We started slower than others and a difficult season is opening in front of us. I accept mistakes, but not when they are made twice. It means you don’t learn from them”Rossi added.
After the 5th race of this year’s F1, in Miami, Alpine has only 14 points, the same as McLaren, and is 64 points from 4th in the championship, Ferrari. However, the French team has made several mistakes this year, with the result that the positive psychology at the end of 2022 has now been completely changed.
A slight improvement was achieved by the Frenchman in the Miami GP, where both drivers, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, were rated. In part this improvement was due to the new flooring that Alpine introduced on the A523 at the previous race, Baku. At the same time Aston Martin, who finished 7th last year, is the revelation of this year with 4 podiums from Fernando Alonso and second place in the constructors’ championship so far.
Speaking to France’s Canal+, Rossi added: “Like [οι άνθρωποι της ομάδας] failure to turn this ship, according to the rules of this business, will have consequences. And I won’t wait until the end of the year. The way is not good. We have to change the way we think about the team as soon as possible.”
Commenting on Laurent Rossi’s words, Zaffnauer said: “Reading something like this in the paper doesn’t add more pressure [στην ομάδα]. Everyone here wants to do well, they are experienced, high-quality engineers, and we put pressure on ourselves. We just have to fix it.
“I look at the points and that is an issue, but I also look at the speed of the match we had [στο Μαϊάμι] and where we were. If we can emerge quickly [από τις Aston Martin, Mercedes, Ferrari] this year, which is what we are trying to do, then we can overtake them because we are not too far from Mercedes or even Aston”he added.
According to other Italian reports, after Binotto’s negative response, Alpine reportedly turned to a slightly older manager, his former manager – with McLaren and Lotus – Eric Bouget. The Frenchman is said to remain the most likely choice if Romanian-American Zaffnauer takes over at the helm of Alpine F1.