Ex-Aston boss Szafnauer new Alpine team principal

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Former Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer has joined rivals Alpine as their new team boss as part of a wider restructuring of the French Formula One outfit’s management, the Renault-owned manufacturer said on Thursday.

The Romanian-American, who left Aston Martin last month, will assume the role of team principal, which was shared by Marcin Budkowski and Davide Brivio last year.

Brivio, a former Suzuki MotoGP team boss, will move into a broader role, identifying and developing talent for Alpine’s young driver academy and wider racing operations.

Budkowski left Alpine in January.

The Enstone-based team, whose drivers are Spanish double world champion Fernando Alonso and Frenchman Esteban Ocon, also announced the signing of Bruno Famin to lead their power unit operations headquartered at Viry-Chatillon near Paris.

Famin, most recently deputy secretary general of sport at governing body FIA, led Peugeot to three consecutive Dakar Rally victories as head of its sporting division from 2016-2018 and a Le Mans 24 Hours triumph in 2009 as technical head of its endurance programme.

Alpine said the management changes replace a shared-responsibility structure at the top with a more streamlined approach, which would “maximise its performance” in F1’s new rules era.

“With Otmar and Bruno joining the team, we move to a new level for 2022,” said Alpine chief executive Laurent Rossi.

Szafnauer is a long-time Formula One insider, who previously worked with Honda before moving to the Vijay Mallya-owned Force India team, which was bought out of administration by billionaire Lawrence Stroll in 2018 and rebranded as Aston Martin last year.

Media speculation had linked him with a move to Alpine as far back as November last year, with the team’s signing of Austrian water technology company BWT as title partners earlier this week only adding to it.

BWT previously sponsored Aston Martin, with the partnership going back to the team’s Racing Point and Force India days.

“My attention is focused on preparing for the start of the season in Bahrain,” said Szafnauer.

“As one of the three car manufacturers involved in Formula One, Alpine is fully armed to achieve its ambition, I can’t wait to start the journey.”

Alpine, winners with Ocon in Hungary last year, finished the 2021 season fifth in the overall standings.

The team, who are set to launch their 2022 car on Feb. 21 in Paris, beefed up their technical department earlier this month promoting F1 veteran Pat Fry to the role of chief technical officer and Matt Harman, formerly of Mercedes, to technical director.

The team’s target is to fight for the championship within 100 races of the introduction of the sport’s radical new rules this year.

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