New Alpine Formula 1 team principal Otmar Szafnauer says he wanted to leave Aston Martin because he had lost “the responsibilities that I used to have”.
Szafnauer spent 13 years at ‘Team Silverstone’ across its various identities of Force India, Racing Point and Aston Martin.
He was chief operating officer and deputy team principal at Force India then assumed the team principal job outright when Force India fell into administration and Lawrence Stroll bought the assets and re-entered it as Racing Point.
Szafnauer remained in charge for the team’s transformation to Aston Martin last year, a move orchestrated by team chairman Stroll, but left the team at the start of 2022.
He was announced as Alpine’s new team boss before the start of pre-season testing.
Szafnauer indicated that the appointment of Martin Whitmarsh as CEO of the new Aston Martin Performance Technologies Group, which the F1 team would sit in, was a key factor.
He told media including The Race that he wanted to leave “once it became clear over there, that the management structure was going to be such that I didn’t have the influence that I thought I should have, with Martin coming in”.
“All my discussions with the seniors here [at Alpine] who said ‘look, the reason we want you to come is because of all your experience in Formula 1, and we want you to apply that to Alpine, and help us in our aim to win races’.
“So when the fellows that are hiring you say that, then you feel very confident that that’s what they’re hiring you for. And they want your experience.”
Szafnauer had vehemently denied speculation linking him to Alpine in November last year.
He said he learned at the final race in Abu Dhabi in December that he would not regain the control he felt he had lost at Aston Martin.
“They made it very clear to me that the responsibilities that I used to have before were never given back,” he said.
“Once I learned that, then it was really time to look [elsewhere].
“It was at the last race. I was told, ‘Yeah, you used to be able to run the team, but you’re not running it anymore’.”
Asked if he would still be at Aston Martin had the circumstances not changed, Szafnauer said: “I had a contract. So I had no reason to leave.
“Had the responsibilities not been taken away from me, I would have stayed.”