, Alpine . Piastri and McLaren: who is lying?

, Alpine . Piastri and McLaren: who is lying?
Formula 1, Alpine vs. Piastri and McLaren: who is lying?

Otmar Szafnauer is used to having to answer uncomfortable questions. In his career as team boss at Force India, Racing Point and finally Aston Martin, he seemed to have seen it all with bankruptcies and takeovers. At Alpine he hasn’t faced bad results or a lack of funds since the start of the season, but he’s faced with completely different problems.

prefers McLaren to Williams

Fernando Alonso’s surprising move to Aston Martin on the first day of the summer break was the start of a farce that is unparalleled even in Formula 1. The departure of Alonso would not have been a problem, because with Oscar Piastri they actually had a replacement ready – or at least thought they had a replacement.

Alpine Piastri has been supporting Piastri in its own junior academy since 2020. The Australian super talent delivered: As a rookie, he immediately became a champion in Formula 3, a year later he repeated the feat in Formula 3. In 2022, Alpine parked him on the bench with the prospect of a regular place for 2023 – but initially with Williams .

In the meantime, however, Piastri looked around for an alternative – and found it at McLaren, where he signed a contract for the next few years on July 4, 2022. However, after Alonso’s departure, Alpine insisted on having a valid contract with Piastri. The drama took its course.

Contract Recognition Board decides on Piastri future

On the Monday after Spa, Alpine and McLaren met again in front of the Contract Recognition Board (CRB). Four days later, four experienced lawyers made their decision: Piastri is allowed to drive for McLaren in 2023. Alpine had neither a contract nor a valid registration with the CRB.

The entire verdict, spanning 27 pages, is damning to Alpine. A draft contract had been deposited with the CRB, which was not signed by either Alpine or Piastri. There were various placeholders in this draft – such as the start and end of the contract.

“I only knew our side, but after the hearing I thought we had a 50/50 chance,” said Szafnauer at a press conference in Zandvoort on Saturday morning. The Alpine team boss probably had to believe that. Because going before the CRB with the embarrassing outcome costs Alpine around half a million euros in legal fees, which McLaren, Piastri and the tribunal have to reimburse.

Who is to blame for the changeover chaos at Alpine?

In addition, there are the costs for the company’s own lawyers, who should better forego their fees in view of the situation. The entire management team at Alpine should probably do the same. But who is actually to blame for the debacle? “It would be easy to blame the people who are no longer there,” Szafnauer tried to save the situation.

Former team boss Cyril Abiteboul had to leave Alpine at the beginning of 2021, and a year later director Marcin Budkowski also left the team. But the contractual matters with Piastri dragged on until the start of the 2022 season. In fact, Piastri manager Mark Webber had to put pressure on Alpine to fix something before the start of the season in order to be able to apply for the super license.

A replacement driver contract for 2022 could still be cobbled together in a hurry, but no longer a contract for a regular place for 2023 and beyond. But who is to blame? A question that Szafnauer was asked again and again in different versions.

Fernando Alonso recently explained why he hadn’t informed Szafnauer about his move. The reason: Because he had not negotiated with the team boss, but with CEO Luca de Meo and Alpine boss Laurent Rossi. Rossi, otherwise not averse to media attention, has not been in the paddock since the summer break.

Szafnauer defended his bosses: “Luca takes care of the strategic orientation of the group, Laurent takes care of the Alpine brand. And I can tell you, the cars are good.” On the other hand, the image that Alpine gives to the whole posse is less good, on the one hand on the contractual side, on the other hand in public.

Szafnauer learns of Piastri’s intentions via Twitter

Alpine also sent out a press release announcing Piastri as the driver for 2023 – without the Australian’s consent. Szafnauer said in Spa a week ago that he only wanted to know from Piastri’s tweet that the Australian didn’t want to start for Alpine.

“I made my decision a long time ago,” revealed Piastri in an interview with formula1.com. “That made Alpine’s announcement even more confusing and upsetting because I told the team I wasn’t going to continue.” In Zandvoort, Szafnauer repeatedly avoided the question of when exactly Alpine claims to have found out about Piastri’s plans.

According to the team boss, it should not have been immediately after the contract was signed with McLaren, i.e. on July 4th. “It was much later,” he affirmed. But it must have been before Piastri’s tweet. Because in Alpine’s press release there was no quote from the pilot. An extremely unusual process.

At least as unusual: How Szafnauer informed Piastri about the press release. “It was a bizarre and quite annoying episode,” Piastri recalls. “He said it to me publicly in front of some team members. I didn’t want to make a scene in front of them. When we were alone again, I explained our position to Otmar – which he had been told several times before.”

The version that Szafnauer and Alpine only found out about the problem through Piastri’s tweet is made implausible by the nature of the press release alone. “I have never lied to you and will not lie to you either,” Szafnauer defends himself.

Alpine knew about the Piastri problem before Alonso left

If the Alpine version is correct, at least Fernando Alonso doesn’t have to make any major accusations. But it can be assumed that they knew about the problems surrounding Piastri – and still did not fight for Alonso’s services with all means. Instead, you also lost the two-time world champion to a competitor.

Now Alpine has to find another successor for Alonso. Pilots of the caliber of an Alonso and Piastri are not on the market. The likely replacement will be Pierre Gasly, who actually still has a contract with AlphaTauri. But Red Bull would be willing to let Gasly go if they got Colton Herta. However, he currently has no super license and is under contract with McLaren. If the two problems are solved, nothing should stand in the way of a French national team with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly.

It is also interesting how Alpine still bypasses Piastri, who will still be in the service of the French until the end of 2022. So far, the 21-year-old has always been at the track, since Spa he has had to work in the simulator on the race weekend. “On Monday we will sit down and discuss how things will continue in 2022,” promises Szafnauer.

Accordingly, it would even be possible for Piastri to still be driving for McLaren in 2022, at least in training. Andreas Seidl’s team has not yet decided who should wind up the two mandatory rookie practice sessions.

McLaren hires Piastri and announces Ricciardo

But the Piastri posse didn’t just leave their mark on Alpine. Questions also arise at McLaren. As is now known from the CRB verdict, Piastri signed in early July. A few days later, Daniel Ricciardo announced on Instagram that he would definitely start for McLaren in 2023.

“To be honest, this is the first time I’ve heard of that date,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports after the CRB ruling. “I knew nothing about the timing and what the team was discussing.” During the summer break, the contract between Ricciardo and McLaren was terminated prematurely, actually the multiple GP winner should have started for the British in 2023.

The team management also repeated before the summer break that they wanted to fulfill the contract with Ricciardo. Team boss Seidl blocks the question of the timing: “I don’t want to go into detail, but it was a transparent process with Daniel.”

The article is in German

Tags: Formula Alpine Piastri McLaren lying

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