‘Two popes is not possible’: Szafnauer suggests too much involvement from Stroll pushed him to leave

Otmar Szafnauer left Aston martin and joined Alpine over the winter having worked at the Silverstone squad for 12 years.

New Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has broken his silence on the end of his relationship with his former Aston Martin team, indicating that he was crowded out by too many key figures.

Szafnauer was brought in by Vijay Mallya in 2009 when they were known as Force India, and he helped oversee 11 podiums between Sergio Perez, Sebastian Vettel and Giancarlo Fisichella as they adopted the Racing Point and later the Aston Martin name.

Lawrence Stroll bought the Silverstone outfit in 2018 when they fell into financial turmoil amid huge legal issues surrounding Mallya, and since then Martin Whitmarsh has been appointed CEO, while chief technical officer Andrew Green and Stroll himself have been heavily involved in the running of the side.

In the end, there were too many cooks in the kitchen, and Szafnauer had to leave.

“Two Popes is not possible but that was exactly the situation at Aston Martin,” he said.

He added that the approach Mallya took is very distinct from the one in operation now, but having worked with so many of the existing staff members for 12 years, he was naturally sad to say goodbye.

“Vijay used to come to the factory maybe four days a year. He completely left the work, per se, to us,” he explained.

“In my twelve years there, I more than doubled the size of the team. I will miss all of them.”

Billionaire businessman Stroll has replaced the 57-year-old with Mike Krack and laid out a five-year plan to become a championship winning team, and this includes the construction of a brand new facility in Silverstone.

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On the face of it, the progress and development being undertaken by Aston martin may seem exciting, but former Arrows driver Christian Danner feels as though they have made little progress over the winter.

“The team is still in its infancy but I’m not so sure they have invested in the right direction,” he added.

Indeed, there will be pressure to deliver for the British outfit that returned to F1 after 60 years away last season as Sebastian Vettel, out of contract at the end of 2022, has admitted that his future with the squad is contingent on results.

Former McLaren and Ferrari F1 driver Gerhard Berger is left “unconvinced” as to whether Aston Martin have improved at all on their seventh-placed Constructors’ Championship performance of last year, but maintains that any success the team brings will not subtract from the 34-year-old’s ulterior motive for racing in F1 – to make a positive impact on the world.

“Their success will depend primarily on whether they can modify the car and move forward,” he said.

“Only then will Sebastian achieve high results, and then no matter what he also thinks about ecology and sustainability, that will not distract him.”

Vettel and teammate Lance Stroll put 680 laps on the board during pre-season testing in Barcelona and Sakhir, but the car looked a handful under the new technical regulations, and ominous doubt lingers as to whether they will be able to reach the top of the midfield this season.