ANALYSIS: What Cyril Abiteboul’s shock departure means for Alpine – and why he’s gone now
Cyril Abiteboul’s departure from the Renault Group, relinquishing his role in charge of the F1 operation that will be rebranded Alpine this season, was a shock.
Abiteboul was considered a Renault lifer, having been with the company since 2001 – two decades ago – and risen to through the ranks to take the reins of the F1 team.
He was set to lead them into a new era as Alpine, having played a key role in bringing double world champion Fernando Alonso back to F1 and the team for this season, but that will not now be the case.
After discussions at corporate level, it has been decided Abiteboul will leave the team, with Director of Strategy and Business Development for the Renault group Laurent Rossi taking over as Alpine CEO – a role which involves taking charge of their F1 activities.
When Renault returned to Formula 1 as a works team in 2016, they had some pretty lofty ambitions. They wanted a podium within three years (2018) and to be a contender for the title in their fifth season (2020).
The team, led by Abiteboul, missed out on both those by quite some way. Their first podiums didn’t come until 2020 – albeit they managed three of them – and they are quite some way from becoming title challengers.
They failed to build on the impressive fourth in 2018, instead dropping back to fifth for two consecutive years, which last year included being beaten by customers McLaren, and Racing Point.
With Luca de Meo – who took over as group CEO last year – overhauling the company’s structure, including its approach to F1 and opting to use its Alpine brand to front their F1 operation, this was the time to make changes.
Renault Sport Racing president Jerome Stoll resigned at the end of last year, with Abiteboul the second high-profile name to depart. It is a bold move – to part ways with such experience – but it appears the company feels the old way wasn’t working.
This is a fresh start for Renault in F1.
What happens now?
Laurent Rossi takes over as Alpine CEO – a role handed to Abiteboul when the rebrand was announced. The 45-year-old joined the Renault group in 2000, spending nine years with the company.
He then had stints at the Boston Consulting Group and Google before returning to Renault in 2018 where he has impressed sufficiently to earn this promotion.
Rossi does not have F1 experience, though, which is why it is anticipated there will be further changes within the F1 team’s leadership structure.
Their Executive Director Marcin Budkowski is highly-rated by senior management, and could well take on a wider role in running the racing operation.
Meanwhile, Davide Brivio, who recently parted ways with Suzuki after his rider Joan Mir won the MotoGP premier class championship with his racing operation taking the teams’ title, has been heavily linked with a role at Alpine.
Expect more clarity in the coming weeks on how the team will be run on a day-to-day basis and at the track, as Alpine finalise their preparations for the 2021 campaign and beyond.