Alpine and Piastri disagree over McLaren contract notice
By Mat Coch
Monday 5th September, 2022 - 3:00pm
There are conflicting versions of events as to when Alpine learnt that McLaren had a Formula 1 contract with Oscar Piastri for next season.
The Contract Recognition Board announced on Friday that Alpine did not hold a valid contract for 2023 and cleared Piastri’s pathway to McLaren.
That will see the 21-year-old replace Daniel Ricciardo, who agreed to terminate his contract with McLaren a year early.
Following the CRB’s announcement, key details of the dispute emerged.
Among those was a timeline of events that highlighted several missed deadlines by Alpine.
They stemmed back to November 2021 and the signing of a Terms Sheet, which in March was hastily reworked to have it form a formal contract.
While that was a critical factor in the outcome of the CRB, a significant factor in the events which led to the dispute was a roadmap laid out in front of Piastri and his management on May 19.
That detailed a four-year plan for the Australian, starting with a season with Williams for 2023.
A second campaign with the Grove squad could follow with 2025 the first time he would be guaranteed an F1 season with Alpine.
Dissatisfied with that, Piastri and his team made the decision to take his future into their own hands.
On June 3, an agreement was struck with McLaren, prompting a month’s worth of due diligence from the squad.
That found there were no valid claims over Piastri’s services for 2023 and resulted in a formal contract being signed on July 4.
“As you can imagine, at that point in time there were some rumours,” said Szafnauer when asked if he knew about the contract being signed.
“So it’s not like we’re oblivious to it.
“However, the July 4 date was made apparent when we had our submissions to the CRB, so that was a few days ago.”
That statement doesn’t tally with comments made by Piastri, who claims he informed the team on multiple occasions that he intended to leave at the end of the year.
“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.”
Piastri’s version of events is corroborated by comments made by McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl.
“Just want to make one thing clear because I want to protect us as a team, and also Oscar,” he said.
“Alpine was, well in advance before the announcement they made regarding Oscar driving for them next year, informed by Oscar, including conversations also with Zak [Brown, McLaren Racing CEO] and myself had with the management at Alpine, of what was going on.”
Alpine has been on the defensive since news of Piastri’s departure broke on Friday with Szafnauer doing his best when fronting the media on Saturday morning.
The American faced a barrage of questions which at times drew into question his integrity – ironic given the comments he made of Piastri.
Aside from exactly when Alpine learned of the McLaren contract, there were other inconsistencies in the details offered by the respective parties.
That even included how Szafnauer advised Piastri he would be promoted to a race drive with Alpine for 2023.
Previously, that was said to have been done following a simulator session at the Enstone factory on August 2, though that is disputed by Piastri.
“I’ve never lied to you, and I never will,” asserted Szafnauer when asked which version of events was true.
“But what I can tell you is reiterate what I said before; Oscar was in the simulator. When he finished his simulator session I went and told him of the release and to congratulate him. And he smiled and said ‘thank you’.
“Were a group of people there? I can tell you no; it was myself, the simulator technician, who happened to be in the same room – but if you’ve ever seen a simulator, it’s a pretty big room – and there were three of us in that room.
“So it wasn’t a group of people, it wasn’t bizarre, and he smiled and said ‘thank you’.”
Whatever the truth is, and in reality it matters little, it serves to highlight the breakdown in communication and trust which ultimately drove Piastri out of Alpine.