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Sudden departure at Alpine explained: 'They don't really want to be champions'

Sudden departure at Alpine explained: 'They don't really want to be champions'

26-11-2023 07:30

Pat Fry has started his new job at Williams. The experienced technical director quit Alpine earlier this year. There, they talk strongly about title aspirations, but according to Fry, there is no real internal ambition to get to the top.

At 59, Fry is already a veteran in F1. The Brit began his career in 1987 at Benetton before working at McLaren, Ferrari, Manor, McLaren again and Alpine. On the 1st of November this year, Fry started his job as chief technical officer at Williams. Together with James Vowles, Williams need to get back to the top.

Why Alpine will not be world champions

Fry made his first appearance to the media in Abu Dhabi after leaving Alpine. He is asked about the reason for his departure. "I look back at the first three years I was there and we improved Enstone dramatically. Year on year we built a better car. If you put the three cars next to each other, each one was a massive step. It's a credit to everyone there. I think everyone there should be proud of what we achieved in those three years," Fry said in a conversation with GPblog and others.

Although Fry was happy with the results achieved, it became increasingly clear internally that fourth place among constructors was perhaps the highest that could be achieved. "I didn't feel the enthusiasm or the drive to move forward beyond fourth. I decided at the start of March that I want to be pushing things forward. I don't just want to sit there and not be able to do things so for me that was time to stop and move on. It's one of those things. As a company, they weren't almost set up to push hard enough. You can say you want to be first but the difference between saying it and achieving is monumental."

In that respect, Fry is very much schooled in Ron Dennis' mindset. For instance, he revealed that the former McLaren team boss always said second place was for first losers. Even at Ferrari, they always had to win. A mentality Fry clearly missed at Alpine.

No fair chance for Szafnauer

When Fry decided to switch to Williams it became clear on the same weekend that Alpine were saying goodbye to more people. Otmar Szafnauer, who just a few weeks before in the Beyond the Grid podcast had expressed his desire to go to the top with Alpine, also had to leave the ship, as did sporting director Alan Permane. Szafnauer, who was in Abu Dhabi with Alfa Romeo not yet having a team boss, never had a fair chance at Alpine, according to Fry.

"I think we did a good job of what we could control at Enstone. I'm not so sure that Otmar got a fair chance at fixing the place because to some degree, metaphorically, his hands were tied. As I say, I think everyone there should be proud of what we achieved in those first three years. It's always a shame walking away from things but I think I took them as far as I could," he added.