F1 rivals eyeing sacked Szafnauer, Permane

Two rival team bosses think axed Alpine chiefs Otmar Szafnauer and Alan Permane will have no trouble returning to Formula 1.

Denis Chievier, a former Renault engine boss, thinks the latest departures amid widespread managerial chaos at the Renault-owned team has become “political”.

“I see a team where, with things not working, a political game has been started with people who are ongoing interested in defending their small personal interests,” he told RMC Sport.

Former works Renault driver Rene Arnoux also joined the growing list of ex-Renault staff who are questioning the latest chaos at Alpine.

“There is nothing worse than something like this during a season where you are aiming for the best,” he said.

But Szafnauer, whose departure agreement means he cannot work in F1 until 2025, is “not a big loss” for Alpine, former French F1 driver Olivier Panis remarked.

“For me, Otmar Szafnauer is not a big loss,” he said. “These guys get fired from big teams but then the other teams bring them back.”

The loss of sporting director Permane, however, is a bigger blow.

“Well, firstly it’s very much Alpine’s business,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, before pointing out that Permane – known in the paddock as ‘Bat’ – has served loyally at Enstone for well over 30 years.

“I think to go from Benetton to Renault to Lotus, back to Renault to Alpine, he’s been one of the mainstays there,” said Horner. “So a hugely competent guy.

“You just have to look at the difficult periods when they were looking at insolvency and issues with shareholders, that’s when the team needs clear guidance and leadership and I’ve been particularly impressed with him.

“I doubt he’s going to be unemployed for too long,” Horner added.

Aston Martin boss Mike Krack agreed: “We’re certainly losing two respected personalities in the paddock. But I don’t think we will lose them.

“Maybe it’s just a short break.”

Horner said Szafnauer is a “good guy”, but axeing Permane was the only real development in the Apine saga that has “stunned” him.

“I’ve never worked with him, ut he’s respected all around the pitlane and I think there should be a little more respect for a man who’s worked for the same team for 34 years and been instrumental in the world titles won by Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.

“I think we’ll see him again, guaranteed.”

Indeed, Permane is already linked with fellow Alpine refugee Pat Fry’s move to Williams, while Andretti-Cadillac may be eyeing Szafnauer for the future.

Chevrier admitted he is scratching his head about Szafnauer’s departure.

“Why did they take him then a year and a half ago?” he wonders. “There was also the disastrous departure of Oscar Piastri, showing that something was wrong with the team that insiders were noticing.

“So there were recruitment mistakes, people not performing at the required level. From experience, what makes good teams are good leaders at the various levels,” Chevrier added.