until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Has Brivio’s Alpine move got harder before it even started?

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
5 min read

Poaching the architect of MotoGP title wins at Yamaha and Suzuki is an interesting statement of intent for the rebranded Alpine Formula 1 team. Assuming this is still the set-up Davide Brivio expected to be joining.

The question is whether Brivio will be a key puzzle piece that’s been missing, a misshapen one that doesn’t quite fit – or if, given Cyril Abiteboul’s departure, he’s now being slotted into a different picture entirely.

After all, Brivio assumes a role that hasn’t been held at the team since Frederic Vasseur left after just one season, Renault’s first as a revived works team in 2016. If that did not work then, the question must be asked why it will work now?

The reshuffle under Luca de Meo could make the difference, as it is mostly planned. And it puts some excellent people in potentially sensible roles.

But it is also partly reactive as Abiteboul’s exit instead of taking on an automotive-facing role (with an F1 link) is understood to have been unexpected at Renault – on the corporate and racing side.

If we assume that Marcin Budkowski will become team principal, Alpine should be in safe hands.

Budkowski is switched on, with a good understanding of the team and the wider business. He has handled big issues well when made the public-facing man for it, and overseen the day-to-day stuff for a long time at Enstone anyway.

Jan 18 : Battle of the rebrands: Aston's early win over Alpine

He was the chassis side’s team boss, to coin a slightly mutilated phrase, and with all respect to Abiteboul, Budkowski seems an upgrade as out-and-out team principal.

If, of course, he is an out-and-out team principal. We don’t know that for certain as Alpine is still yet to communicate the details. In fact, all we know of Brivio is his title – not what his responsibilities will be. Therein lies some potential for confusion.

It seems unlikely that Renault/Alpine would have recruited Brivio if he didn’t fit the desired structure, or if he assumed a role and responsibilities that one of the existing team leaders would have an issue with.

But, there is a risk that’s exactly what has happened – by accident rather than design. Because the understanding is Brivio was recruited by de Meo to fill a role beneath Abiteboul, who needed to be less hands-on with the racing programme to focus on Alpine’s automotive needs.

The knock-on effect of the lack of clarity is it’s even more difficult to predict how successfully Brivio will cross the MotoGP/F1 lines

Now there is no Abiteboul. And instead Alpine has promoted Laurent Rossi, whose new CEO responsibilities include the F1 team, is not believed to have been first choice for that position but holds it as a consequence of Abiteboul’s exit.

Where does Brivio fit in that structure now? As racing director will he be Alpine’s de facto team principal, just not in name?

Or will Budkowski take that position after all, with Brivio working alongside or above him? Who will be responsible for what?

And will one of them be the middle-man between the racing organisation and the board – or will that be corporate plug-in Rossi?

The hierarchy in other teams is clear: either ONE team leader who reports to the CEO, or the position is the same.

At Ferrari that was Mattia Binotto to Louis Camilleri (who had a company-wide role currently being performed by chairman John Elkann), at McLaren that’s Andreas Seidl to Zak Brown, at Williams it’s now Simon Roberts to Jost Capito. At Mercedes, Red Bull, Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo the CEO/team principal roles are held by the same people.

Either way, at these teams the chain of command is clear. At Alpine it now seems a bit of a mess. And while it might be quickly settled, turning this into a bump in the road rather than an insurmountable hurdle, it would be foolish to think this is an ideal situation for the team in mid-January.

Alpine F1 interim livery

The knock-on effect of the lack of clarity is it’s even more difficult to predict how successfully Brivio will cross the MotoGP/F1 lines.

His role should have been well determined by now but it can probably be broadly termed as being in charge of people and practices – something he has mastered to a world championship-winning degree in MotoGP.

As ‘racing director’, what’s he in charge of? Who oversees what? How much crossover is there? Where does the buck stop?

Appraisals of his ability to handle personal and corporate responsibilities bode well. This is a man who steered Yamaha and Suzuki to world titles in MotoGP.

Red Bull and McLaren offer recent testimony to how difficult it can be to match European and Japanese cultures.

Brivio did that with aplomb, especially at Suzuki where the Japanese manufacturer’s team was run by Europeans. He knew how to balance pressure and expectation, to integrate different groups, and to manage people.

That should come in handy at Alpine, with its car being built in England and the engine in France.

But will handling this fall under his remit? It’s more than day-to-day management, and is part of the bigger picture.

As ‘racing director’, what’s he in charge of? What is Rossi in charge of? What is Budkowski?

Therein lies the difficulty of having too many cooks. Who oversees what? How much crossover is there? Where does the buck stop?

Brivio must be happy with the initial answers he got to those questions to take on the challenge in the first place.

But the fact there has been a delay in his announcement, and that there is still a lack of detail around it, suggests the answers may now be a little different.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks