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Is Bruno Famin the right person to lead Alpine?

Written by Gabriel Tsui, Edited by Umut Yelbaşı


After a disastrous start to the 2023 season, differing opinions led to the split of Otmar Szafnauer and Alpine. Bruno Famin took over as the acting team principal for the rest of the 2023 season, and is projected to keep his position for the foreseeable future.


However, there are questions as to whether Famin is the right person to lead Alpine through their rebuild. 


To understand these reservations better, let’s explore who Bruno Famin is, his past achievements, the problems within Alpine that he must solve, and if he is to be replaced, who the potential are.


Who is Bruno Famin?

Bruno Famin, born in Belfort, France, obtained an engineering degree from Arts et Métiers ParisTech, a French engineering and research institute of higher education and one of the oldest and most prestigious engineering schools in the country.


After furthering his studies, Famin joined Peugeot Sport in 1989 as a development engineer. In 1994, he switched to the main Peugeot company as a project manager, before returning to Peugeot Sport in 2005, this time as Technical Director. 


Two years after Famin returned to Peugeot Sport in 2005, Peugeot Sport returned to sportscar racing, contending in the Le Mans Series. Throughout the years, Peugeot secured multiple top five finishes in the Le Mans 24, and a back-to-back LMP1 championships in ILMC, subsequently known as the WEC in 2010 and 2011.


In 2012, after Peugeot withdrew from the WEC season due to financial implications, Famin was appointed as the director of Peugeot Sport, leading all operations of Peugeot’s motorsport activities.


Under his leadership, Peugeot’s biggest success was taking one-two-three in the 2013 Nürburgring 24. They also participated in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb 2013, where they smashed the standing record by over a minute with a 208 T16.


In 2019, the Frenchman left Peugeot Sport for the FIA, taking on the role of Director of Operations. In February of 2022, Famin left the FIA and was appointed as the Head of Powertrains Development for Alpine.


After the firing of Otmar Szafnauer, Famin was appointed as interim team principal, a role the 64-year-old still holds to this day.


The Problems at Alpine

Alpine has faced a multitude of problems that need solving, which Famin would have to tend to if he continues to lead the team. The sudden departure of Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin, losing top prospect Oscar Piastri to close rivals McLaren, and then, halfway through the season, the sackings (or retaskings) of Laurent Rossi, Otmar Szafnauer, and multiple top brass due to poor performance.


The team greatly regressed from the previous season, all while storms were brewing within and outside of the team. Corporate interference was also an issue, with Otmar Szafnauer claiming higher ups interfered with decisions. They also lacked patience, sacking top tier engineering talent after only being given 18 months to work with the team.


However, the above problems are nowhere near the real ticking time bomb. Reportedly, there is a huge rift within the team, between the French crew in Viry that mainly focuses on powertrains and the British crew in Enstone that works on other parts of the team.


The reported gap between Renault and other manufacturers in terms of engine performance certainly isn’t helping the relationship between the two camps. The two sides are in such a strained relationship that they have to stay in different hotels and sit at different tables during a race weekend.


In fact the situation was so dire that Renault’s CEO Luca De Meo had to step in and host a video conference, asking both sides to put aside nationalities and work together. 


These are key issues Famin has to resolve if he wants to prove to Renault’s top brass that he is the man for the job, given the lack of patience from the higher ups. If he doesn’t act quickly, they may look to replace him with someone with more experience, as there is plenty of talent in line for the job.


Who could replace him?

The first name that springs to mind is definitely Günther Steiner, the former Haas team principal who was recently dismissed.


He is one of the most experienced candidates currently on the market, with over a decade of experience as team principal. He has prolonged experience of running a team with a low budget, dealing with underperforming personnel, and working under pressure. 


Another name on the market would be Mattia Binotto, who just cleared the one year gardening leave. He would be an interesting hire, given his failed time in Ferrari. However, his history with engines could be in his favour.


In his time with Ferrari, he also served as the Head of the engine department from 2013 up until 2016, when he was promoted to chief technical officer. Even though his time in Ferrari was filled with low moments, one has to wonder if his skills as an engine builder can help Alpine prepare a better, more powerful engine in time for the 2026 rule change.


Jost Capito is the final name on the list, and he is well qualified to handle the problems at Alpine. Capito started as a high-performance engine developer for BMW, then subsequently worked for Porsche, Sauber, and Ford.


In 2012, he moved to Volkswagen as the Director of Motorsport, and during his time at the team, VW dominated the WRC, taking three drivers and constructors championships. In 2016, he joined McLaren’s F1 branch as their CEO, but left the role shortly after.


He then joined Williams as the CEO in 2021, then took over as team principal halfway through the year. He stepped down at the end of 2022, citing the exhausting long season as a factor. He has incredible experience in developing engines, and past colleagues have nothing but high praise for him.


Capito could be the key to solving the on-track issues hurting the performance and the off-track issues hurting the morale for Alpine.


Conclusion

Current Alpine boss Bruno Famin has a lot of issues to address and solve, and there are no simple solutions to these problems. If Famin wants to keep this job, he has to show Renault CEO Luca De Meo and the board of directors that he can bring the team together and lead them to the promised land. If not, he will be replaced sooner rather than later.


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