Otmar Szafnauer blasts 'fake news' as axed Alpine chief lines up new job in F1

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Otmar Szafnauer rubbished a social media rumour about his Alpine exit (Image: Getty Images)
Otmar Szafnauer rubbished a social media rumour about his Alpine exit (Image: Getty Images)

Otmar Szafnauer called out the "fake" claim he had left Spa-Francorchamps before the Belgian Grand Prix after being axed by Alpine.

The Enstone team announced on Friday that he would be leaving after the race weekend, along with sporting director Alan Permane. But one rumour on social media suggested that he had made an even earlier exit.

Szafnauer was "spotted" leaving the paddock prior to the race. This was presented by a viral post on social media as him leaving the venue to not return, but this was not the case.

The outgoing team principal was heading elsewhere at the track for an event, rather than leaving the circuit altogether. And Szafnauer confirmed as much when speaking to Sky Germany.

"That's the beauty of Formula 1, people invent things and there is fake news everywhere," he said. "I didn't leave the track, I was here the whole time. I was at the command post, helping with strategy decisions and making sure we got some good points."

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Szafnauer would have had every tight to be licking his wounds at the end of his last weekend in F1 for a while. But his primary focus was on his staff, making sure to spend some time with them in the team's hospitality unit and garage before actually leaving the paddock for good.

"For me personally, I'll be alright and I'm fine," he said when on his way out. "It's just my worry is for all the wonderful men and women at Enstone and Viry that work hard and do a good job. I hope their future is bright.

"I was just getting into my stride, starting to know everybody, how to motivate them. You know, a high tide lifts all boats, and I was just getting to the point where I was raising the tide. There were people, not me so much, but people crying and saying goodbye. I told them, 'Look, I'm still alive, I didn't die! I'll be all right.'"

Szafnauer now has a period of gardening leave to observe but also hinted that his next move is already lined up for when that is over. He said he will be given the remit to make some of the changes he wanted to at Alpine in that new role, but didn't say which team he expects to join.

Bruno Famin will take interim charge of the team at the Dutch Grand Prix, the first race after the summer shutdown. The team has yet to announce its plans beyond that.

Daniel Moxon

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