Szafnauer reveals why he quit Aston Martin amid rumoured tensions with Stroll

Otmar Szafnauer left Aston Martin and joined Alpine over the winter.

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has revealed that the arrival of Martin Whitmarsh as CEO at Aston Martin Racing ultimately made his position as team principal there untenable.

Szafnauer started out with Aston Martin during their Force India days in 2009, and he helped oversee six podiums with Force India before he became team principal of the Racing Point Force India team in 2018 after Bob Fernley had stepped down and Lawrence Stroll bought the financially destroyed outfit.

A further four podiums followed in 2019 and 2020 in their Racing Point guise, as well as Sergio Perez’s famous race win in Sakhir.

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Last year saw the return to the pinnacle of motorsport of the famous Aston Martin name, but they slumped to seventh in the championship, with a podium through new signing Sebastian Vettel the highlight of an otherwise unsatisfactory season.

To make matters worse for the Romanian-American, Stroll appointed Martin Whitmarsh, who was team principal at McLaren for 94 races between 2009 and 2013, as CEO.

There was subsequent confusion as to who was actually in charge, and this is when Szafnauer decided he had to leave and head to Alpine, who broke their recent tradition of not having a de-facto leader.

As a result, he confirms that his “two popes” comment a few months back was directed at Stroll’s appointment of Whitmarsh, rather than Stroll himself.

“People ask me who that pope was – well it wasn’t Lawrence because everyone has a boss,” he said in an interview with

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“I have one here [at Alpine] as well and that’s in place everywhere.

“But once they brought in Martin Whitmarsh, that’s the other pope I was talking about. For both of us to sit in the same space and try to do the same thing just doesn’t really work.

“But it wasn’t about Lawrence. Lawrence is still the owner and the boss over there. I have a boss here, Laurent [Rossi], and that’s all understood and clear, and that’s how it should be.”

Szafnauer reveals that he had already taken the decision to leave the Silverstone side before he began talks about his current role with Alpine.

“The serious talks began this year, in the new year, and that’s only after it was clear to me it was the best thing to do – to depart Aston Martin,” he added.

“That’s when I started looking elsewhere and it was just a match at Alpine.”

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Esteban Ocon has managed points in four of the first five races of this season, while an astonishing amount of misfortune has meant that Fernando Alonso has not been able to score since the opening round in Bahrain.

Aston Martin failed to score at all in any of the opening three races with a wretched car, but Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel have both managed to find points in Imola and Miami, leaving them ninth in the Constructors’ Championship ahead of Williams.