Szafnauer parted company with Alpine after the recent Belgian Grand Prix following a disagreement between himself and the sportscar manufacturer’s bosses over the timeline needed for it to win in F1.
While Szafnauer said his decades of experience in F1 prompted him to feel it would take until 2026 for Alpine to hit its target, the company’s senior management was adamant that it could be delivered much sooner.
With such a fundamental divergence over the long-term vision for the team, it was agreed that they should go their separate ways with immediate effect.
Szafnauer’s departure, just over a year since he arrived at the squad, caused shock within the paddock, especially when Alpine also announced that the team’s highly-rated sporting director Alan Permane was also leaving.
Perez, who worked with Szafnauer at the Racing Point squad, thinks that his departure was premature because it takes so long to build success in F1.
Asked about his reaction to Szafnauer’s departure, Perez said: “I think I was quite surprised with it, given how short notice it was.
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1 Team
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz / Motorsport Images
“I think Otmar is great, [and] any person in that position, you’ve got to give them time. I think Otmar lacked time to really show his potential, which I know is huge because I’ve seen what he’s done in other teams with very limited budgets and with not-so-limited budgets as well.
“I think that it’s a shame that they let him move on but I think, on the other hand, whoever comes needs to have proper time because all these things in Formula 1 take a massive time.”
But while there has been an outpouring of sympathy for Szafnauer following the nature of his exit from Alpine, not everyone has been so supportive of what he has done at the team.
Last week, Fernando Alonso suggested that Szafnauer should not be too proud of the way he had run things at Alpine, having himself quit the squad for Aston Martin after it delayed efforts to sort out a contract for him for this year and beyond.
Speaking to the BBC about Alpine’s mishandling of the contract talks, Alonso said: “It was just on a very slow pace, and it was not from my side. I was just ready and happy. The 2022 car was a fast car so I was also happy with the performance and the possibilities into the future.
“So that slow pace of conversations and eventually not even putting on paper what we were writing and all these comments about the age and whatever, which they are still doing.
“It is the way they do things. Or the way Otmar does things. Because after this year, he should be quiet. He should not talk at all. After the results of Aston Martin and the results he’s achieving, he’s still talking and still proud of the decision, which is incredible, amazing.”