Although Szafnauer has endured some tough weeks, Rossi has nothing but praise for him, having found himself in the midst of the crazy season of the F1 driver market when Alpine lost Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin and Oscar Piastri to McLaren.
Rossi says that despite what has happened on the drivers’ front, while the team is still angry at Piastri’s lack of loyalty, he is adamant that Szafnauer is doing his best to advance Alpine’s competitiveness since he took over the government in March.
And while some have suggested there is a hazy management structure at Alpine which isn’t helping things, Rossi says things are absolutely crystal clear internally now that things have settled down in the squad.
“Otmar is in charge, and has always been since he arrived,” explains Rossi.
“We had a bit of a transition period for me to hand over a few things, but by the way, Otmar is one of the employees I’m most proud of.
“He’s been delivering every day since he arrived, and he’s in charge. About topics like [drivers] we stay close, so we knew all the developments.
“We sometimes agreed on maxima, limits, limits, because of course we have to be on the same page, and I have to know [what is happening]. But there was no real separation between us.”
While Rossi hasn’t been in the spotlight as much as before this year, he says it’s a result of choosing to bring Szafnauer into the team as boss.
Previously, the team had a management structure with three leaders: Rossi, former executive director Marcin Budkowski and race director Davide Brivio.
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1
Photo By: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
In the winter, Budkowski left the squad and Brivio took on a new role in charge of young drivers and other competitive projects for Alpine.
With Szafnauer in place, Rossi says his intention has always been to step back – and he wants to become less involved in F1 from now on.
“Last year I was very involved with the team, especially because there was no team boss,” he said.
“Management had to be there and I had to understand how the team works before I made the changes I wanted to make, and I did.
“I believe they work: and on track we deliver, which is the most important thing in sport by the way. So then I have to distance myself.
“This year, for example, in the first half of the season, I was here about two grands prix out of three, that’s too much. I will be one in two GPs here by the end of the year, maybe even less. And that’s normal.
“I have 17 reports to do, including one for F1. I have to build cars, I have to expand the dealer network. I have to think about go-to-market strategies, marketing and building the brand. The other 16 reports are just as important as the F1 report, maybe even more so, because it’s going to fund it at some point. So it’s definitely normal for me to disappear a bit.
“In the same way that Luca [de Meo, Renault CEO] doesn’t always sit on my back because he knows all the very important decisions, I never make a decision that is critical without him thinking along, or at least approving it or joining in and giving his opinion.
“Otmar and I work the same way. I’m just connected to him and I know everything that’s going on.
“Otmar is the boss. I trust him completely and he is doing a great job. So it gives me that peace of mind and I trust that he will continue to grow the team.”