Alpine: Piastri can’t leave us for McLaren F1 seat in wake of shock Alonso exit

Alpine Formula 1 boss Otmar Szafnauer insists that Oscar Piastri is contractually obliged to drive for the team in 2023 after Fernando Alonso's departure made a race seat available.

Oscar Piastri, Reserve Driver, Alpine F1 Team

Piastri won the Formula 2 title at the first attempt last year as an Alpine junior, but was unable to find a race seat at the team in 2022 with Alonso and Esteban Ocon already lined up.

He instead signed a reserve deal with Alpine, but has been clear that he wants to race in 2023.

Piastri and his manager Mark Webber are understood to have agreed a deal to go to McLaren, when it appeared that Alpine’s only choice to was to place the youngster at Williams for a year.

Alpine’s plan had been to keep Alonso for one more season before taking Piastri, but the Spaniard’s unexpected departure has moved the goalposts and the Alpine seat is available after all.

It’s not year clear whether Piastri will push on with the McLaren deal, or accept that he has an obligation to drive for Alpine.

“I'm not privy to whatever pre-arrangements he has with McLaren, if any at all,” Szafnauer said when asked by Autosport about Piastri’s intentions.

“But I hear the same rumours that you do in the pitlane. But what I do know is that he does have contractual obligations to us. And we do to him. And we've been honouring those obligations all year.

“And those obligations, last through '23, and possibly in '24, if some options are taken up.

“And our obligations to him this year was to be a reserve driver, to also put him in last year's car for a significant amount of time. We're well over half that programme of 5000 kilometres, which isn't insignificant, in last year's car, in preparation for a race next year.

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Oscar Piastri, Alpine A521

Oscar Piastri, Alpine A521

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

“Also FP1s, simulation work, and we've been performing those obligations on both sides. So he's been performing, we've been performing.

“So therefore we do have a legal contract with him into the future for '23. And if an option is taken up, for '24. So I don't know what he's done with McLaren. Like I said, I'm not privy to that.”

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Asked if Piastri or his management have indicated that he doesn’t intend to race for Alpine, Szafnauer said: “Oscar and his camp are considering their options, whatever that means.”

Szafnauer also indicated that he has had little contact with Webber since the Alonso news broke.

“This just happened on Monday - it's now Tuesday, his manager is in Australia, there's a bit of a time difference,” he said.

“But I've been trying to get hold of Mark and wrote some text messages and some emails to him, as well. So give us a bit of time.

“Oscar is our number one preferred candidate. And that's what we're going to do.”

Regarding Piastri’s apparent reluctance to be placed at Williams, Szafnauer said: "The contractual terms, those details we don't like to disclose, but it was on the team's side to say, not on the driver's side.

“It is true that every racing car driver wants to drive for the best team possible.

Oscar Piastri, Reserve Driver, Alpine F1 Team

Oscar Piastri, Reserve Driver, Alpine F1 Team

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

“And if you're posed with choices of perhaps a top of the midfield team versus, somebody that isn't there, of course you're going to choose the team that has better potential in the future. So that was a consideration.

“But if you know if your choice is driving in F1, or sitting out another year, I would imagine you're going to choose driving in F1.”

Szafnauer stressed that the situation is now different: “Now that there's a bit of clarity as Fernando has chosen to go to Aston, Oscar's choice isn't to be placed somewhere else, like Williams, as opposed to a leading midfield team.

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“Once that choice is your choice in front of you, I can understand it. But otherwise, I can't understand it, you know what I mean?

“We need to now like I said, progress this, this only happened yesterday. It's now Tuesday. So we will sit down and progress what our future driver line-ups going be. And I would imagine the choices aren't different.”

He added: “There shouldn't be any complications. If everyone is true to the agreements that they signed back only a few months ago, we should be able to move forward with the agreements that we have in place.”

Szafnauer made it clear that Alpine has spent a lot of money and resources in preparing Piastri for F1, and thus it won’t let him go without a fight.

“That's a significant amount of investment,” he said. “It's more than just the financial investment, it's also an emotional one, and getting him ready for what we hope is a successful F1 career.

“It's not every F1 team that does that for an academy driver that's come through, but we've chosen to do that to get him ready.

“And we've only done that with a view of having him race here in the future. We wouldn't have done that, if the view was to get him prepared for one of our competitors.”

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