The new boss of Groupe Renault and Alpine has explained the brand and management change on F1 side but gives no clear answer on Cyril Abiteboul.
What looked like that Abiteboul would be given a larger role at Alpine from 2021 onward, it changed entirely in the winter, when Renault announced the Frenchman’s departure, not only from the team, but the whole company after he spent decades with them.
It certainly came as a surprise, as Laurent Rossi was named the Alpine CEO, while a surprise move came in the form of Davide Brivio, who jumped from Suzuki in MotoGP to F1. He joined as Racing Director alongside Marcin Budkowski – both under the new CEO.
There is no direct Alpine F1 team principal, where Brivio and Budkowski are sharing their work, especially with the former also having to learn the basics. It is a new learning for Rossi too in his position, without the experience of Jerome Stoll and Abiteboul.
The case for Abiteboul is curious indeed, where there is still no clarity on the reason for his departure – both Rossi and Groupe Renault boss Luca de Meo has no clear answer. They have thanked them for their work, but also noted about the complex situation.
“Look, I think that… it’s a kind of a complicated question,” started de Meo to written media. “I had the feeling that let’s say we had to integrate the F1 story into a new story. And it is difficult to do that with people that have interpreted a role of F1 team in a different way and then led an organisation in another direction. Okay?
“So, Renault Formula One and also Renault Sport, and also the Alpine story, they were kind of, on the border of the system, okay? Playing that kind of thing. When they needed support from the mothership, they would come, but actually what their comfort zone was, was to stay out of the thing. Alpine is one of the four pillar of the Renaulution, it is one of the four brands that we put in front of the consumer.
“So it’s totally integrated in the mainstream strategy of the Renault group. And you need people that are able to combine the fact that you are a small unit, agile, etc., but also to find connection with a thing. So the decision for example of naming Laurent as a CEO of Alpine, which I find fantastic is that I met Laurent, when I came in July, we did all Renaulution plan together because he was in charge of strategy.
“He is a guy that has had a lot of experiences in other companies, but he knows, let’s say, how to play the system. Okay? And now to balance, the needs of those small units together with the mainstream of the company. And, very important, the Alpine story is not only a racing story, it’s a business story. Right? It’s a business story.
“So you need business people to do that. Having said that, I mean, I will not do the advertising for him, but, he’s an engine engineer, he started with Formula 1 thing, he’s very passionate. He likes to be in the thing with the mechanics, etc, etc. So, I mean, we have the right guy with the right attitude, but he will look at the thing with a slightly different angle. And that’s why we made the decision.
“But honestly, we didn’t move too many people. So we have a change of management. We hired Davide. We kind of promoted Marcin to the thing. He was another kid of the house, very bright. So for the time being we didn’t move a lot of things, we tried to find a new setup. I also think that I had to find personally a clear, let’s say, path to the team without a lot of layers in between.
“So it’s also to make the system flatter and more direct. That’s what I needed. But I have to thank Cyril and Stoll for the work they have done. They have started like it was 2016 or ’17. They ended up doing a few podiums, but I think we need to look forward and without trying to be, let’s say, critical of the work that was done. I think it was a good start, but now we turn the page,” explained de Meo.
Keeping the speculations aside, de Meo kind of hinted that the roadmap seen by him from Rossi seemed a better prospect, rather than that of Abiteboul, which likely led to the parting. But the new Alpine CEO did not wish get into any of it himself.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t say [if it was known to him that Abiteboul will be moved out] because I was brought in only early this year after I delivered, alongside Luca de Meo, the new strategic plan for the Groupe Renault, but what I know though is that the structure was there when I arrived and we firmly believe into it and that’s all I can say unfortunately,” explained Rossi.
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