Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer, has disclosed that the appointment of Martin Whitmarsh as CEO of Aston Martin Racing rendered his job as team principal unworkable.

Szafnauer began his career with Aston Martin when the team was formerly named Force India in 2009, and he helped the team to six podium finishes before taking over as team principal of the Racing Point Force India team in 2018, after Bob Fernley stepped down and Lawrence Stroll purchased the financially crippled team.

In its Racing Point form, they added four more podiums in 2019 and 2020, including Sergio Perez’s legendary Sakhir victory. However, controversy surrounded their 2020 cars with claims they were replicas of Mercedes’ 2019 championship winning car.  

The 2021 season saw the iconic Aston Martin name return to the pinnacle of motorsport, but they finished eighth in the championship, with a podium by new signing Sebastian Vettel the highlight of an otherwise disappointing season.

Lawrence Stroll appointed Martin Whitmarsh as CEO, after serving and team leader at McLaren for 94 races from 2009 to 2013. This made the matters worse for Szafnauer.

As a result of the confusion over who was in command, Szafnauer decided to leave and travel to Alpine, which had recently broken their history of not having a de-facto leader.

The Romanian-American acknowledges that his remark about “two popes” a few months ago was meant to refer to Stroll’s nomination of Whitmarsh rather than Stroll himself.

“People ask me who that pope was… well it wasn’t Lawrence because everyone has a boss,” he said in an interview with Formula1.com.

“I have one here [at Alpine] as well and that’s in place everywhere, but once they brought in Martin Whitmarsh, that’s the other pope I was talking about.”

“For both of us to sit in the same space and try to do the same thing just doesn’t really work.”

“But it wasn’t about Lawrence. Lawrence is still the owner and the boss over there. I have a boss here, Laurent [Rossi], and that’s all understood and clear, and that’s how it should be.”

Before talking about his current role with Alpine, Szafnauer discloses that he had already decided to quit the Silverstone based outfit.

“The serious talks began this year, in the new year, and that’s only after it was clear to me it was the best thing to do, to depart Aston Martin,” he added. “That’s when I started looking elsewhere and it was just a match at Alpine.”

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon has scored points in four of the first five races of the season, but Fernando Alonso has been unable to score since the opening round in Bahrain due to a string of bad luck.

With a dreadful car, Aston Martin failed to score in any of the first three races, while Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel both scored points in Imola and Miami, putting them ahead of Williams in the Constructors’ Championship.

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