Piastri: lack of clarity triggered Alpine departure
By Mat Coch
Saturday 3rd September, 2022 - 7:42pm
Oscar Piastri has explained that a breakdown in communication and a lack of trust with Alpine led to his decision to leave the organisation.
Piastri will race for McLaren next year on a two-year agreement following confirmation by the Contract Recognition Board that Alpine did not hold a valid contract with the Australian for 2023.
The decision handed down by the CRB highlighted mounting frustrations from the Piastri camp as deadlines were continually missed.
That built to the point where the 21-year-old took his future into his own hands.
“The CRB ruling has confirmed I didn’t have a contract for the 2023 season [with Alpine],” Piastri told the sport’s official website.
“I was free to choose my destiny – and I felt McLaren was a great opportunity. They were very straightforward and very keen and enthusiastic to have me.
“To be completely honest, there was a lack of clarity around my future at the team at Alpine.
“They publicly stated they wished to continue with Fernando for at least one or two more years,” he added.
“I respect that. But after spending the year out, my hopes were firmly set on an Alpine seat and the lack of clarity and, similarly to Fernando [Alonso], a bit of a strange feeling in negotiations, it didn’t feel like it was the right decision for me [to stay around].
“The lack of clarity around my future, and ultimately a breakdown in trust, I felt the very attractive offer of McLaren and the positive dealings with them thus far were all reasons why I felt McLaren was where I was best off for the future.”
Piastri’s intentions to leave Alpine arose when Alonso announced he would race for Aston Martin in 2023.
Alpine responded by confirming last year’s Formula 2 Champion in his place, which was promptly rebuffed by the Melburnian on social media.
“My decision was made well in advance [of Alonso’s departure], which made Alpine’s announcement probably even more confusing and upsetting because we had told the team that I wasn’t going to continue,” Piastri said.
“It was quite upsetting as the announcement was false and it also denied me the opportunity to properly say goodbye to everyone at Enstone.
“I had been with team for a bit over two and a half years now, and for the rest of the team to find out I was leaving in that manner was very upsetting.
“I still haven’t had the opportunity to say goodbye and it’s something I want to do to show my gratitude to all the men and women at Enstone.”
Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer advised Piastri of his promotion to the race team shortly after a simulator session at the team’s factory on August 2.
Having reportedly smiled and thanked Szafnauer, a comment from the driver was notably absent from the media release announcing the promotion later that day.
“It was the biggest moment of my career and probably my life up to now,” Piastri said.
“To have that falsely announced was something my management and I felt we had to correct and there were also potential legal implications if we didn’t deny the announcement.
“It was not intended to be pointed or in any way anything more than factual. The last line was quite a strong one, but with the CRB ruling, it shows it was purely a fact.”
A four-year deal was proposed to Piastri in May which placed him at Williams for 2023, and potentially 2024 too.
He was guaranteed an Alpine race seat only from 2025.
Only there was no deal in place with Williams, though early discussions did take place, leaving the May 19 ‘offer’ little more than a roadmap.
Unwilling to accept those terms, Piastri and his management began to look elsewhere and by June 3 had agreed a deal with McLaren.
The team spent a month investigating the Australian’s contractual situation before the final contract was struck on July 4.
“Their enthusiasm to have me was very attractive,” said Piastri.
“Zak [Brown] and Andreas [Seidl] were very straightforward and to the point.
“McLaren have a competitive car. Obviously, it’s a tight battle between Alpine and McLaren right now, but they are a competitive team with a hell of a lot of winning history, and I think the environment is a great fit for me.
“The team has great plans and the future is exciting.
“I’m also looking forward to working and driving alongside Lando.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I feel McLaren is the right place for me to start life in F1. I’m super excited to get started.”
For now, Piastri continues to perform reserve driver duties for Alpine, though his ongoing tenure in that position is now unclear.
The squad will discuss his immediate future next week. His formal start date at McLaren, for the moment, is January 1, 2023.
“I’m still reserve [driver] with Alpine and I’m happy to carry out those duties still, but it’s a discussion that we need to have between myself and the team,” Piastri noted.
“We’ll see how that looks and then obviously super excited to be joining the grid with McLaren next season.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time with Alpine,” he added.
“I joined the Academy off the back of winning the Formula Renault championship in 2019 as part of the prize for winning the championship and enjoyed two incredibly successful years as part of the Academy with two further championships so I have nothing but respect for all the team at Enstone.
“It was a good testing programme that we came up with with Alpine this year, in place of not having a seat for this year.
“It’s put me in good stead and I’m very thankful for Alpine for the testing we have done this year, but McLaren is a different team, a different car and the 2022 cars, in general, are quite different beasts so we’ll see how much of that carries over.
“I will look back on my time at Enstone with great memories but I’m now focusing on my future and starting my F1 career.”