Alpine’s new racing director Davide Brivio has a different role to his MotoGP title-winning team principal job at Suzuki, but not just because he’s now in Formula 1.
Brivio joins a management structure that has eliminated the established ‘team principal’ position. Instead, as previously explained, Brivio sits alongside executive director Marcin Budkowski and both report to Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi. Brivio takes care of the trackside part of the business and Budkowski is responsible for what happens at Enstone.
Alpine’s position is that with 23 races scheduled and F1 seasons being more intense than ever, it’s difficult for a single person to oversee the work back at base while also taking charge at grands prix. So, separating those responsibilities is a logical solution. It also helps Brivio in his adaptation to the world of F1 by giving him a tighter focus.
“Yeah, to be honest, what I effectively was doing was much more,” Brivio says when asked by The Race how the responsibilities at Alpine compared to his Suzuki MotoGP role.
“Being in a bigger organisation there are many functions, many roles where there are offices of people – like human resources, the legal office taking care of the contracts, or marketing department, communication, everything.
“In Suzuki the organisation was smaller. And basically, I was going through all these sectors.
“Here [Alpine] they are very well-organised, each individual sector. And so, there is more responsibility to participate in all the operations to be less operative [directly involved] compared to before. Before I was also operative rather than being responsible.
“Here you can count on plenty of very good operational staff, the offices are organised.
“In terms of responsibility I am a part of the management with Laurent, with Marcin. We have the responsibility to run the operation. The point will be to make plans for the future, to decide where we want to go, splitting into different functions and different roles.”
Brivio explains part of that very well, that a MotoGP team boss is not just accountable for everything but also more hands-on in different areas. And there is obviously a clear benefit to being more focused on the race team rather than trying to be a jack-of-all-trades in a bigger, unfamiliar organisation.
But the final part of his answer is where the doubt creeps in: because no single person below Rossi is accountable for Alpine’s F1 team. Every other team in F1 either has a team principal and a CEO, or the title is combined. And when the likes of Mercedes’ Toto Wolff or Ferrari’s Mattia Binotto believe it is best to skip a race and focus on things at base, then trackside responsibility falls to a designated number two – a Laurent Mekies or a James Allison.
Rossi isn’t running the show at the track or at Enstone, so there is a disconnect between the team’s activities and the person making the final decisions.
Alpine has not, and likely will not, discuss how much this unusual structure is a result of Cyril Abiteboul’s departure. He held the team principal role before his surprise exit over the winter.
Abiteboul had been tipped to take the CEO role that Rossi eventually assumed, but one suggestion is he did not want to relinquish direct control of the F1 team.
Whatever the reason, there is a sense of uncertainty over Alpine’s ‘chosen’ structure. It is the odd one out among F1’s 10 teams and that raises a clear question mark over whether it will work.
That said, Brivio is the type of character who inspires some confidence it will. Or, at the very least, he makes you want it to. He arrives in F1 with a stellar reputation from MotoGP, not just as a successful operator but as an engaging person with a great attitude and excellent people skills. It is very early in his second career, but it is already clear why.
“Nowadays it’s quite difficult, 23 races, and when you want to improve the organisation, make the team grow up, you need to be very focused on all aspects,” Brivio says.
“So we decided to split [the responsibilities] and, of course, having Marcin in this role is very helpful for me. He has done a great job organising the facilities in Enstone. My role is to be responsible for what’s happened on the track, to make sure when we are here for the race weekend we have everything we need to perform, to make sure the drivers are happy, comfortable and they have what they need – of course listen to their requests, and their complaints!
“When we arrive at the track, we try to give value to all the people working in Enstone working in Viry. We are here with less than 10% of the people, so it’s a big responsibility and of course a big pressure.
“What we want to try to do is to be efficient in all aspects, and in all situations. At home and at that circuit. That’s the idea behind it. And let’s see.”
Brivio was born in Monza and when he was young would bike to the track, jump the park’s perimeter fence, and watch Ferrari test before the Italian Grand Prix. He’s always been passionate about motorsport, tried bike racing himself but “was not fast enough, so I thought I’d better find something else!”.
That something else has been “a dream came true” by working at the absolute top level of bike racing and now in F1. He’s even dabbled in co-driving – most notably in the Monza Rally event as part of an entry alongside his good friend and long-time Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi.
Brivio has retained a lot of the fandom that gripped him in his youth, but his enthusiasm should not be mistaken for naivety. He says even in MotoGP he liked to follow F1 and see what he could learn to improve his performance in his day job.
Now at Alpine he must do the opposite – take what made him so successful and translate that into the world of four-wheeled grand prix racing. He is willing to be patient for now but is certainly not afraid of bringing new ideas to the table once he has his feet under it.
“I have to say that I found a very good organisation, very good people, very good engineers,” he says.
“Marcin did a good job on organising everything, the team here at the track I’m delighted to see how they work. I have full respect for, and I really appreciate, what has been done so far.
“Now I am a part of the organisation and so as a part of the team, all together, we have to see where we can improve, what we can make better, and continue this process.
“I am in a learning stage now! I am trying to understand, and I hope I will be able to give my contribution. Maybe coming from outside I can try to give some ideas. Maybe sometimes a crazy idea – they might be stopping me! Or maybe something interesting from a different perspective.
“But we start from a very good base. It’s a very good team, very good people, but always you have to improve. Always you have to see how you can be better until you get to the top and this is the aim and the target of everybody involved here.
“I start with a soft entry, looking around – but as I say, I really like the way the team works, and the entire operation – to see what we can improve and how we can improve. Because we all want to be better.”
A charismatic leader goes a long way to instilling faith in any organisation. Brivio’s enthusiasm, passion and optimism for the task, for the team, and for F1 is already palpable.
His role means he’s not the out-and-out team boss he was at Suzuki, or maybe should have been for Alpine. But he is a public-facing part of the management and has a great deal of responsibility for making this unconventional set-up work.
Success will depend on how united Brivio and Budkowski are. Perhaps on a day-to-day basis their respective authorities will breed better focus and greater output. Longer-term it will depend on how aligned they are on making big decisions.
Brivio lends a great deal of credibility to the argument that this just might make sense after all.