Karun Chandhok, a former Formula 1 driver, has voiced apprehensions about Alpine’s recent management departures, warning that the team might be veering towards a fate reminiscent of Toyota’s exit from the sport.
The 2023 season has been marked by a disappointing performance from Alpine, as it languishes in sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship, managing only 57 points across the initial 12 rounds.
The revelation during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend of the departure of Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer and Sporting Director Alan Permane has sent shockwaves through the Alpine camp.
Szafnauer’s criticism of Renault’s impatience in the pursuit of Formula 1 success has raised concerns about the team’s direction.
Chandhok draws parallels between Alpine’s current situation and Toyota’s eventual departure from the grid at the conclusion of the 2009 season.
Chandhok asserts, “The reality is that they are the sixth best team on the grid with the sixth fastest car, but they are the third largest global brand in the automotive world.”
Expressing his unease about Alpine’s choices, he continues, “My concern is if they are going to continue with managers who come from outside the world of motorsport and F1.”
The former F1 driver highlights Alpine’s recruitment strategy, particularly the inclusion of individuals from the road car division into key departments.
Chandhok’s comparison to Toyota’s similar trajectory two decades ago is grounded in the fear that Alpine might either abandon Formula 1 or embrace a corporate approach that may not be conducive to on-track success.
The void created by the departures is substantial, with Chief Technical Officer Pat Fry also leaving Alpine to assume the same role at Williams.
Chandhok underscores the gravity of these exits, stating, “Three great figures have left. Alan Permane had been there for more than 33 years and Pat Fry seems to have left on his own, no one has thrown him out.”
The simultaneous departure of this trio has raised questions about the team’s strategy and future direction.
In Chandhok’s assessment, Alpine seems to be grappling with “a lack of direction.”
The Indian driver questions the wisdom of releasing these influential figures all at once.
He explains, “For me, they have fired important people in the operational aspect and from within the track, so I think you already know where your problems are.”
As the season progresses, Alpine’s prospects for improvement appear dim, especially in light of McLaren’s significant advancements following a series of upgrades.
McLaren, a contender for fourth place in the previous season, has established a considerable 46-point lead over Alpine.
However, a glimmer of hope appeared as Pierre Gasly secured third place in the Belgian Grand Prix Sprint Race before Alpine entered the shutdown phase.
While Pierre Gasly’s achievement injected some optimism, Alpine will require significant changes to mount a challenge against their nearest rivals.