In a recent development, the French F1 outfit, Alpine, announced the departure of team principal Otmar Szafnauer and sporting director Alan Permane as part of a major shake-up. Alain Prost, who served as an advisor and non-executive director for the Renault/Alpine squad from 2015 to 2022, expressed his concern over the current state of the team. He believes that the team made a critical mistake by allowing too much corporate influence to dictate its decisions.
In a lengthy interview with L’Equipe, Prost shared his sentiments about the team, stating, “I love this team, and I am saddened and distressed to see it in its current state. It deserves better and has everything it needs to succeed. I simply believe you need to rely on history to understand what went wrong.” He further emphasized the importance of having a simple structure, built around three or four strong personalities, along with a winning driver, as seen in successful teams over the past three decades.
Prost provided examples of successful partnerships in F1, such as Jean Todt working with Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, Toto Wolff, Niki Lauda, and James Allison alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, and Adrian Newey’s alliance with Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen at Red Bull. He also pointed out that in these cases, the parent companies had CEOs who understood and supported the efforts of the F1 team, a crucial aspect he believes is lacking at Renault.
The former driver also reflected on the importance of understanding F1 within the higher management of the parent companies. He highlighted how Red Bull’s decision not to partner with Porsche was due to their refusal to yield to decisions made by individuals unfamiliar with the intricacies of F1. Prost recalled instances during his time at Renault when he heard dismissive remarks about F1 being a simple sport that could be managed effortlessly from the company’s headquarters.
Prost expressed his disappointment with the departure of Laurent Rossi, the former Alpine team boss. He considered Rossi as an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, where a person’s lack of knowledge and skills leads them to overestimate their own competence. Prost believed that Rossi’s management style hindered the team’s momentum, which they had built since 2016, resulting in podium finishes and victories.
Although Alpine’s interim team principal, Bruno Famin, remains confident that the team has a plan in place to achieve success quickly, Prost remains unconvinced. He hopes that the recent decision to replace certain individuals within the team will act as a wake-up call for improvement. Prost looked back at Renault’s past success, attributing it to a strong management team supporting figures like Flavio Briatore and legendary driver Fernando Alonso. The philosophy of quick decision-making by specialists played a pivotal role in their achievements.
Prost found it amusing that F1 directors are often invited to conferences on management by major companies to speak about reactivity and flexibility, but rarely the other way around. He underscored the importance of striking a balance between corporate influence and the expertise of F1 specialists to ensure success in the sport.
In conclusion, Alain Prost expressed his concerns about the current state of the French F1 team and the impact of corporate influence on decision-making. He advocated for a simple structure built around strong personalities and winning drivers, as seen in successful F1 teams. Prost’s reflections on past successes and management styles in F1 shed light on the importance of understanding the sport’s complexities within the parent companies. His hope is that recent changes within the team will pave the way for positive transformations and a return to success in the future