The signing of Fernando Alonso by Aston Martin has triggered an earthquake at Alpine. Otmar Szafnauer is for the first time honest about what happened and his personal and professional relationship with the Spanish driver.
Since August 1st Aston Martin officially confirmed the signing of Fernando Alonso for 2023 there has been a lot of talk about Alpine, Otmar Szafnauer and the Spanish rider’s relationship with the two.
But it is now that one of the main protagonists, and the most named as guilty of what happened, speaks about all this. It is said that the personal relationship between Fernando Alonso and Otmar Szafnauer is bad, that Alpine underestimated the Spanish driver and that his departure is a consequence of all this. What does the director of Alpine say?
An unprecedented situation
In an interview with The confidentialOtmar Szafnauer acknowledges that “It was the first time I experienced something like this. Although I’m not completely surprised, because I have experienced other situations and stories on both sides, on the driver’s side and on the team’s side. But, in my case, I had never experienced anything like that.
The Alpine director does not take it personally, believing that this negotiation and contract struggle is nothing more than a “Capitalism in all its glory. Until it is signed, nothing is certain”.
“We had many conversations with Fernando, we wanted him to stay.obviously he also had his own with Aston Martin… So some details of the contract that were put on the table pleased him more than some of those he had to discuss with us, ”he admits.
But just because the world works like that doesn’t mean his word is worthless, and Szafnauer says he’s a man of his word. And it also explains why he told the press he couldn’t locate Alonso because the Spaniard was on a yacht on a Greek island.
“I can’t be naive enough not to know the rules of the Formula 1 game. But I believe that I am a man of integrity and that if I commit to something I will do my best to make it happen. I keep my word. But hey, I understood that not everyone does things the same way,” laments Szafnauer.
“I love Fernando, I still love him, and the relationship by the end of the year is going to focus on beating McLaren”
“Alonso told me on Sunday evening that he was going to a Greek island by boat. I called him several times in the morning and could not reach him. That’s what he told me, that it would be difficult to locate him, that’s why he said that.”.
“I understand why Alonso leaves”
Whether he agrees with the decision or not, Otmar Szafnauer says he understands Fernando Alonso will go to Aston Martin, as he knows it was very important for the double world champion to secure a future in Formula 1 at beyond 2023.
“You would have to ask him, but for Alonso a long-term commitment to the team was very important. A two-year contract, although it was a plus one. I think one of the keys for Fernando was the length of the contract.”recognize.
“He plays at a very high level and I told him that if he continues at this level, next year we will surely continue, we would be crazy not to do it. But, as with everyone in life, there comes a time when age affects your psychological abilities, your eyes, your brain, your muscles, your nervous system… they decline. Because of that, we thought with Fernando it was a year, plus a year, plus a year. And he wanted guarantees of more time”, justifies Szafnauer about Alpine’s position.
When asked if money was a big factor, Szafnauer says he doesn’t know “how much they’re going to pay it at Aston Martin. What I do know is that we offered him more money than we are paying him now, which makes sense. It was a figure that at the beginning he tried to negotiate, like everyone else, but in the end we reached an agreement, formally..
“But I do not know, I heard rumors that you received a very high offer. I don’t know if that was a deciding factor, ask him. Knowing that he was at Aston Martin last year, I could say that Fernando already had conversations last year, or two years ago, really.
The relationship between Szafnauer and Alonso
Many media and fans have pointed to a personal grudge between Otmar Szafnauer and Fernando Alonso as the main cause for the Spanish driver’s departure to Aston Martin. However, the US-raised Romanian denies this to be true.
“Yes, I got on very well with him from day one. And that’s because he’s a competitor, which I really like.. I’m extremely competitive and similar to Fernando, I want nothing more than to get results, that’s what drives me,” he says.
“I see the same in Alonso. And this trait that we have in common means that working together is very easy. I like it, I still like it, and the relationship by the end of the year will focus on beating McLarenWe have to be fourth in the championship.”
For this reason, Szafnauer guarantees that Alpine will continue to give Fernando Alonso his best, which Otmar believes the driver will also do.
“That competitive instinct also has Fernando. Never mind that he goes to Aston Martin next year. Once he puts on the helmet, he wants to do his best. And I’m the same. He’s a great driver, he’s at a very high level, he’s one of our best assets, with Fernando and Esteban Ocon scoring points every weekend.
Faced with claims from many in the Formula 1 paddock that Fernando Alonso is a difficult and problematic driver, Szafnauer continues to defend the Spaniard, despite what has happened.
“I’ve heard those stories. For me, it’s the first year, and what I’ve seen is that he’s an incredibly competitive personality. If he has this reputation, it’s because he is so, so competitive that he is ready to do anything to obtain the best possible result in the race. Sometimes people misunderstand that.”says Szafnauer.
“I remember back in the days of McLaren complaining on the radio about the ‘GP2 engine’. I’m sure the folks at Honda didn’t sit too well, but it was frustrating because they wanted to do better. It’s the same in our team, a lot of people worked with him before, at Benetton then at Renault, and he’s part of the family, so there’s nothing like it, not in our team.”he concludes.
Source: The confidential
Pictures: Alpine F1 Team