Former Alpine F1 CTO Pat Fry criticises their lack of ambition, explains move over to Williams

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At the Abu Dhabi GP, the former technical director of the Alpine team, Pat Fry — now at Williams in the same position — explained the reasons that led him to leave the Enstone team. In doing so he did not spare criticism of Alpine’s management, while praising the work of Dorlinton Capital and James Vowles at Grove.

For the Alpine team, the 2023 season was anything but characterized by stability and technical continuity and beyond. After a change of driver at the beginning of the year with the farewell of Fernando Alonso and the arrival of Pierre Gasly, there was also a big, and important, change in technical and managerial figures ahead of the summer break. It was farewell to Team Principal Otmar Szafnaurer, Sporting Director Alain Permane and Technical Director Pat Fry.

After leaving the Enstone-based team and joining Williams as technical director recently, Fry wanted to explain the reason behind his farewell to the French team, not sparing criticism of the management of the Renault Group, claiming that it lacks the drive and enthusiasm necessary to get back to the top of Formula One.

Fry played a primary role in trying to get the team moving forward after a tough few years following the near collapse of the team in 2015.

Three podiums in 2020 saw Renault finish P5 in the standings, only 21 points from McLaren in P3. A win in Hungary with Ocon in 2021, followed by a strong 2022 where they finished P4 in the standings suggested a positive trend.

The decision to quit this year, along with other things, came after the stinging criticism from Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi after the Miami Grand Prix weekend.

It was the drive and vision that led him to believe in Williams, and in Dorlinton Capital, excellently led by James Vowles.

“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 credit for everyone there, the various teams were collaborating a huge amount better. Everyone there should be proud of what we achieved in those three years.

“I guess I’d gone back there with that [idea to] go back to the place you started your career and try and rebuild it and I think we did really well, from a distant fifth we were a solid fourth. But I didn’t feel there was 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 really.

“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 it is monumental, isn’t it? James [Vowles] had been talking to me for a little while and it wasn’t for another couple of months after that I decided to come here”.

“The thing that excites me about this opportunity is that the board is fully on board with what it’s going to take to move this place forward. They’re willing to invest what it takes and support us in building a team. It’s a nice thing isn’t, to rebuild an old British icon. It’s a bit like my romantic view of going back to Benetton to rebuild them, really, so it’s another exciting prospect.

“James is pushing hard to try and improve this place, the board is fully behind him moving the place forward and that’s the thing that excites me. We’re not going to be limited in what we can achieve, we’ve just got to do the best we can in the time and move things forward.”

There was a clear divide between Fry and the Alpine group which led to the inevitable decision (despite the romantic aspects of his return to Enstone) to leave the team and move to Williams where, unlike the French-owned company, he can count on the right resources and backing to move the Grove-based squad forward.

Not only that, but in Grove, the former Ferrari and McLaren engineer can now also count on the time needed to put his ideas to good use and reap the benefits. Time that he, as well as Szafnauer, was never granted by the Renault Group.

“Enstone as such, the destiny that we were in charge of we could control and I think we did a good job.

“I’m not sure that Otmar got a fair chance at fixing the place, because to some degree things…metaphorically your hands are tied, I guess.

“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 for me, that was time, I’d taken them as far as I could and it was time for me to put my feet up and sit in my garden.”

Photo Credit: Williams Racing