Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team celebrates his third position with the team

Why Alpine’s Monaco F1 result was “desperately needed”

The aforementioned timing is relevant because the result came just a few weeks after Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi surprised the paddock with strong criticism of his own team in a French TV interview, saying the team’s performance was “unacceptable” and at times “amateurish”.

The strong race in Monaco took some of the pressure away, and a clearly delighted Rossi was happy to be front and centre between the two drivers in the team photo that celebrated Esteban Ocon’s podium finish.

However, while Alpine lies fifth in the standings, that’s not where a works team with big ambitions wants to be, especially several years into an ongoing rebuilding process.

The key for Rossi was that the team did everything right in a difficult race and successfully converted decent grid positions into results with both cars, having raced toe-to-toe with Mercedes and Ferrari.

It was a great weekend for the team and a much-needed boost, but Rossi is well aware of the bigger picture.

The car isn’t quick enough at the moment, so it’s all about making the most of what the team has, and taking opportunities when they come at circuits that favour the package.

“Yeah, it’s good, it’s important, we got some points that we desperately needed,” he says. “Because we didn’t deliver at the level of performance that we should have in the first few races, which was the purpose of my message.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team celebrates his third position with Pierre Gasly, Alpine F1 Team, Laurent Rossi, Alpine Chief Executive Officer and the team

Photo by: Alpine

“So we kind of caught up [with] a big haul of points, which helps us strengthen at least fifth position in a good fashion, which is nice.

“Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I doubt we’re P3, on the face of it. We’re probably going to get back to the natural order next week in Barcelona. I would assume something like anywhere between sixth and 10th.

“And then we’ll continue doing what I was expecting the team to do, which is deliver on operational excellence and show a different mindset in terms of analysing errors, addressing them, and delivering something solid like that, which is very good.”

Rossi acknowledges that making the A523 more competitive and regularly being in the mix with Mercedes and Ferrari won’t be easy.

However, he’s confident that a good direction has been found.

“On the performance side of the car, this takes time,” he says. “There are going to be upgrades. We can see that the aero maturity is getting there. Everyone understands the car more, we’re kind of plateauing.

“So [now it’s about] how to operate the car in any conditions and make sure that you deliver. So this is going to be quite interesting.

“But yeah, at least the last two races Miami and Monaco have shown the type of behaviour and operational excellence that helped us actually get fifth in 2021, when we had the sixth car, and get fourth last year when we had the fourth car.

“Because it was strong, it was solid. And I’m glad to see that the team got back to that level. This is Alpine. I’m sure they’re very proud, and they can be.”

Laurent Rossi, Alpine F1 Team CEO

Photo by: Alpine

Rossi says the team management already knew what he thought, and in effect, his infamous message was for the outside world to see while wearing his corporate CEO hat.

“I also sent that message across to people individually,” he insists. “One thing that you forget is that I am not the team principal. So, I only spend a little bit of my time on F1 now by design, because I have actually a very capable set of managers at the head of Alpine F1. So I told them many times what I thought.

“And then I was asked by journalists, investors and people from the outside world whether or not I was happy with that, and what was my diagnosis. So I also had to [share] it there.

“So you thought it was addressed to my team, [but] it was addressed almost equally to the external world as the internal one.

“Don’t forget, we are part of a publicly-traded group. We have plenty of partners, sponsors. And they sometimes wonder if, on the face of it, the team is going in the right direction. And so you also need to send them a reassuring message that there is someone there who knows that this is under par compared to our ambitions.”

Inevitably, Rossi’s comments led to speculation that Otmar Szafnauer’s job could be under threat a little more than a year after he took over.

Rossi conducted the search that led to the hiring of Szafnauer, and at the time was adamant that he was the perfect man for the job.

He insists now that his message wasn’t aimed just at the team boss.

“It became because I said that, Otmar is like threatened,” he says. “It was simply a reminder to all the people in charge. Otmar being the top person in charge, but certainly not the only one. Otmar doesn’t design the car, doesn’t operate the car. He’s the man who’s orchestrating everything.

“So it was simply a reminder to them that they have objectives, and they’re going to be assessed against those objectives. As simple as that. I was not going to let go of Otmar after having said that just after one race.”

But wasn’t he sending a straightforward signal to Enstone as well?

“It was indeed also meant for the management,” he admits. “And to understand that clearly the world out there has eyes on them, not just me. I was talking to my sponsors or investors and shareholders as much as on behalf of them. I was asked to put a diagnostic, and I did it.”

Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team A523

Photo by: Alpine

The risk with such public statements is that they can cause some turmoil and uncertainty around a team and generate gossip across the paddock. However, Rossi downplays the impact of his words.

“I don’t know, whatever it did, to be honest with you,” he says. “I could see it’s perceived very differently in different places. In the US it was well received, in France it was well received. In the UK, perhaps a bit less.

“It’s okay, as long as it produces the effect. The team knows what I think of them. I’ve told them time and time again, I think highly of them.

“In my interview, I even said that I know what this team is capable of. They showed it last year. I was just disappointed.

“So really, it was a very simple message that anybody can read the standings could understand, because they were just asking me, why are we there? And is it satisfactory? And those are the reasons.”

Read Also:Ocon: Alpine must ‘keep feet on the ground’ after Monaco F1 podiumGasly: Alpine closer to the pace in Monaco than any F1 race in 2023Gasly: Miami bounce back “important” for Alpine F1 team after Baku misery

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