Laurent Rossi called and Alpine answered. At the Monaco Grand Prix, the sixth round of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, the Enstone-based team managed to take the first podium of the season thanks to a perfect race by Esteban Ocon, good at taking advantage of Saturday’s qualifying to place himself in front to Ferrari and Mercedes, then finishing the job in Sunday’s race, where the rain was a big problem only for the opponents.
A momentary epilogue that at least partially reassures Alpine’s start to the season well below initial expectations. The team’s goal was to confirm its fourth place in the Constructors’ World Championship and get closer to the three top teams in terms of performance and the gap from them. Failed mission.
For this reason, Laurent Rossi, CEO of the French manufacturer, hadn’t hesitated for a moment to use very heavy words towards the team after the first outings of the season.
It’s disappointing, it’s really negative. This year started with bad performances and results. It’s very obvious. Our position in the standings is not worthy of the resources we spend, and we are quite far, not to say very far, from this year’s final goal,” the transalpine manager declared in early May, following the Miami Grand Prix .
“I’m noticing not only an obvious lack of performance and rigor in the results, but also potentially a state of mind that isn’t up to the past standards of this team. I didn’t like the first GP, because there’s It was a lot of amateurism that led to a result that was mediocre, bad”.
The music, however, changed quite a bit after the beautiful podium obtained by Esteban Ocon in Monte-Carlo, which arrived mainly due to excellent management decisions by the team and the driver rather than by the pure performance of the A523s.
“It’s a good result, it’s important, we got some badly needed points,” he said. “Because in the first races we didn’t reach the level of performance we should have, which was the purpose of my message. So we recovered quite a few points, which helped us to at least strengthen fifth position in a positive way, which it’s positive”.
Laurent Rossi, Alpine F1 Team CEO
Photo by: Alpine
“Now, let’s not exaggerate. I doubt we will be P3, at first glance. We will probably return to the natural order next week in Barcelona, assuming a position between sixth and tenth, I think.
“And then we will continue to do what I expected the team to do, which is to achieve operational excellence and show a different mindset in terms of analyzing errors, deficiencies, their correction and concrete results, which is very positive” .
Rossi acknowledges that it will not be easy to make the A523 more competitive and to be in regular contact with Mercedes and Ferrari. However, he is confident that a good direction has been found.”
“Regarding the performance of the car, it takes time. There will be some updates. We can see that aerodynamic maturity is coming, everyone understands the car better and we are at something of a plateau.”
“So now it’s a question of doing the rest, managing the car in all conditions and making sure we get results. The rest of the season will be very interesting.”
“But yes, at least the last two races, Miami and Monaco, have shown the kind of behavior and operational excellence that allowed us to finish fifth in 2021, when we had the sixth car, and to finish fourth last year, when we had the fourth car”.
“Because it’s been strong, it’s been solid. And I’m happy to see the team is back to that level. This is Alpine. And I’m sure they’re very proud, and they can be.”
Rossi then went back to talking about the famous and harsh message he gave to the team and which he gave to the press a few weeks ago, after a start to the season well below expectations. Alpine’s chief executive said those words had already been spoken to team management well before they were divulged to the media.
“I also conveyed that message to individuals. One thing that is forgotten is that I am not the director of the team. For this reason, I only devote a small part of my time to F1 now, because I have a group of very capable managers to head of Alpine F1. So I told them many times what I thought.”
Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team, 3rd position
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“And then I was asked by journalists, investors, people in the outside world whether or not I was satisfied, and what my diagnosis was, so I also have to say that.”
“So if you thought it was aimed at my team, it was aimed almost equally at the outside world and the inside world.”
“Don’t forget that we are part of a publicly traded group. We have many partners and sponsors. And sometimes they wonder if, at first glance, the team is going in the right direction. So you need to send them a reassuring message: there is someone who knows the result falls short of our ambitions.”
“It was (a message) to management as well. Also to understand that clearly the world out there has its eyes on them, not just me. I was speaking to my sponsors, investors and shareholders, but also on their behalf I was asked to make a diagnosis and I did.”
The risk of public statements of this type is that they can create confusion and uncertainty within a team and generate gossip in the paddock. However Rossi thinks that his words have not had such an important negative impact.
“I don’t know, whatever I did, to be honest. I could see that it is perceived very differently from place to place. In the US it was well received, in France it was well received, in the UK maybe a little less.”
“That’s fine as long as it produces the desired effect. The team knows what I think of them. I’ve told them many times, I have a very good opinion of them.”
“I also said in my interview that I know what this team is capable of. They showed it last year. I was just disappointed. So, actually, it was a very simple message that anyone reading the standings could understand, why were they asking me only: why are we there? And if we are satisfactory? And these are the reasons”, concluded Rossi.