Motor racing-Szafnauer to leave Alpine, Fry moves to Williams

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) – Otmar Szafnauer will leave Renault-owned Alpine after Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix with Bruno Famin appointed interim principal on another day of upheaval that exposed rifts within the misfiring Formula One team.

Alpine said the team’s sporting director Alan Permane, who has been at the Enstone factory for 34 years, was leaving by mutual agreement while chief technical officer Pat Fry was joining Williams in the same role.

Alpine Academy director Julian Rouse was named as Permane’s interim replacement while Matt Harman leads the technical team at Enstone.

“Otmar will continue his duties as normal for this weekend’s race in Belgium, before leaving the team ahead of the summer break,” Alpine said in a statement.

Szafnauer, a paddock veteran who joined from Aston Martin in January last year, told reporters the decision was mutual and stemmed from disagreement over how quickly the team could become regular winners.

“The thing that really changed is I had a timeline in mind for changing the team, making it better,” he said. “I think some of the senior management at Renault had a shorter timeline in mind.

“If you can’t reconcile that — I think one thing, they think another — it’s best to part ways.”

Famin said the changes were made “in order to go faster in reaching the level of performance we are aiming for.

“Mutually we agreed to split our ways, and that’s it.”

Szafnauer faced an early setback last year when Australian reserve Oscar Piastri refused the offer of a seat and joined McLaren for 2023 after double world champion Fernando Alonso announced a surprise move to Aston Martin.

Laurent Rossi, the man who appointed Szafnauer, was replaced as chief executive of the Alpine brand on July 20 and reassigned to ‘special projects’ within the Renault group.

Rossi warned in May he would make changes if performances did not improve, and said the buck stopped with Szafnauer.

Famin was handed overall responsibility for all of Alpine’s motorsport activities, including Formula One and world endurance, two weeks ago and Szafnauer reported to him.

“The reshuffle of the team is a decision of the top management, of course,” said Famin. “It’s not something which has been decided from one day to another.”

“What is happening is the second stage of the Alpine rocket…it’s not going backwards, it’s moving forwards.”

Alpine, who want to be regular winners by 2026, were fourth overall last season and are now sixth. They have failed to score in their last two races.

Williams said Fry, who has had senior roles at both McLaren and Ferrari, will start work on Nov. 1.

“His knowledge and experience will further strengthen the team’s technical capabilities and pursuit of excellence as we build the next chapter of Williams,” said principal James Vowles.

“Pat has been a core part of winning teams throughout his career, he is one of the most respected experts in our industry and I’m excited to begin work with him when he joins in November.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)

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