The Alpine Formula 1 team will forego having a dedicated team principal in 2021, with new racing director Davide Brivio solely tasked with leading its trackside operations.
Existing executive director Marcin Budkowski will coordinate the team’s car development, overseeing the work on the chassis at Enstone and engine in Viry that is led by Alpine’s two technical directors Pat Fry and Remi Taffin.
Alpine’s unconventional ‘no team principal’ structure appears to have been triggered by Cyril Abiteboul’s unexpected departure just before it was poised to announce Brivio’s arrival from the title-winning Suzuki MotoGP team.
Abiteboul was the Renault team principal for all five seasons of the works team in that image, overseeing its return to the F1 grid in 2016 and leading it until the final year before it rebranded as Alpine for 2021.
It would appear from Budkowski’s role “coordinating the whole development of the car”, as stated by new Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi, that the experienced Budkowski is the closest approximation to an Abiteboul successor.
However, he and Brivio will both report to the new CEO, so are on the same level within the hierarchy and therefore tasked with sharing the team’s senior leadership.
“The two of them will work in tandem to extract the best out of the car that’s being designed in Enstone to put it in the best position possible in the future,” said Rossi, who has been promoted to a role Abiteboul was expected to take on.
“The rest of the teams are keeping their existing line structures to Marcin in Enstone or to myself in Viry.”
Budkowski jokingly side-stepped a question from The Race about he and Brivio sharing the responsibilities of team principal and the perceived benefits of foregoing that traditional structure.
“Yeah, we went for a slightly different structure than the conventional, if you want, team structure,” he admitted.
“But at the end of the day the roles and the responsibilities are clear. It’s just we are calling them a little bit differently.
“We’re a French team, at the end we had to put a bit of French in the organisation structure as well!”
While Budkowski (pictured above) will attend races, his primary influence will be at Enstone, where he has spent the last few years overseeing its expansion and improvement.
Meanwhile, Brivio will oversee everything that happens at the track.
“Our job as a race team is to exploit the full potential of the car,” said Brivio. “At Enstone there are a lot of people. It is a big pressure and big responsibility because we have over 1,000 people between Enstone and Viry preparing the chassis, the car and the power unit.
“We will be a much [more] limited number of people at the racetrack, but this is where we have to extract the full potential of the car. So I will be in charge of that.
“Of course I’m not an engineer, but I have to try to make sure that engineers, mechanics, all the drivers, all the people involved, [that] they have all they need to perform at the very best.
“And in this way, if we are able to have a strong team, which is already in place, we will be able to extract the full potential of the car.
“So that’s the job. To go to the circuit, go around the world, and try to get the best of what more than 1,000 people have prepared at home.”
Abiteboul’s shock departure appears to be the cause of Alpine not opting for a direct replacement. This could be because it did not expect him to leave and had already committed to hiring Brivio in a different role.
Alternatively, Alpine may believe the team principal role is now redundant.
The racing director role has not existed at the team since the first season of Renault in 2016, when Frederic Vasseur worked alongside Abiteboul. That arrangement was short-lived and Vasseur left after one season, with the role going unreplaced.
Now, however, Budkowski says having a dedicated trackside man makes sense alongside his role with broader management responsibilities.
“In today’s Formula 1, with the complexity of a Formula 1 team, especially one that does chassis and engines, we have a base in the UK, we have a base in France, there’s 23 races, potentially 25 in the future, COVID restrictions means potential quarantines, etc. – honestly, in these conditions, managing a team and going to all races is very, very difficult,” said Budkowski.
“So for me personally, it’s great to have Davide on board. Apart from obviously all the skills he brings from his other motorsport experiences, it means I won’t have to go to all the races.
“I will probably do the majority of them, I will probably start skipping a few in the second part of the season.
“And we have someone in Davide who has got a lot of trackside experience, a lot of soft skills acquired as a team manager in other categories.
“He knows how to manage drivers, he knows how to motivate them. He knows how to organise a garage.
“So it’s gonna be a great contribution to have him there and we can share the role and really make sure that we don’t leave anything without the attention it requires.”