Bosses’ merry-go-round has F1 spinning

Lui Zacher
December 14, 2022 / 9:41 pm

Bosses merry go round has F1 spinning

Renault-owned Alpine have offered a cheeky response after four of their Formula One rivals replaced bosses in a managerial merry-go-round this week.

Alpine posted a picture on Instagram of principal Otmar Szafnauer, appointed on February 17, holding a mobile and looking quizzical.

“Checking your phone and realising you are the fifth longest tenured team principal in F1 after only nine months in charge,” read the caption.

Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, McLaren and Williams have all announced post-season departures and/or arrivals this week in the sort of upheaval that usually features drivers rather than bosses.

Szafnauer is, in fact, the sixth longest in his current job, with Aston Martin’s Mike Krack just ahead of him after being appointed on January 14, but the point was made.

Only four of the 10 principals have been in position for more than a year, with Red Bull’s Christian Horner leading the way. The Briton, now 49, was the youngest of all when he arrived in 2005.

Toto Wolff, whose Mercedes team posted a picture on Instagram on Tuesday captioned “BREAKING: we’ve got nothing to announce, so here’s a photo of the boss”, has been in charge since 2013.

The other long-timers are AlphaTauri’s Franz Tost, appointed in 2006 when the team changed from Minardi to Toro Rosso, and Netflix star Gunther Steiner at Haas since they entered in 2016.

There was a time when principals were team founders or owners — men like Frank Williams, Enzo Ferrari, Colin Chapman and Ken Tyrrell — who made up the membership of the paddock ‘Piranha Club’.

Their meetings were the distillation of paddock politics, a clash of vested interests and powerful egos, but times have changed.

Wolff is the only one of the current crop who is also a team co-owner, with a third share.

The others are effectively employees, more like soccer managers, contracted to produce results or face the consequences.

They are the ones in the spotlight, standing in front of the cameras and appearing in news conferences, but the real power rests elsewhere.

Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll calls the shots at Aston Martin, Frenchman Laurent Rossi is CEO of Alpine F1 and American Zak Brown is CEO of McLaren Racing.

Fredric Vasseur, taking over from Mattia Binotto at Ferrari after the Italian resigned in November, reports to company chairman John Elkann and chief executive Benedetto Vigna. The Frenchman is now on his third F1 team.

Andreas Siedl, who has moved from McLaren to Sauber-run Alfa Romeo as Vasseur’s replacement, now has Swedish billionaire Finn Rausing as group chairman while Steiner’s boss is American Gene Haas, a NASCAR team co-owner.

Some teams have previously seen no need for the title. When Vasseur was at Renault, before Sauber, he led as racing director. McLaren also had no official principal for years following Martin Whitmarsh’s ousting in 2014.

“That position is a thing of the past,” declared Wolff back in 2013.

“It is like any other major corporation: there is not that one guy on the board who is making all the decisions — it is divided by competency.”


AAP (C) 2022

Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer (centre) jokes about being a long-server after 10 months in the job. (AP PHOTO)