Szafnauer denies Alpine showed lack of loyalty to Piastri in F1 contract saga

Otmar Szafnauer denied Alpine showed Oscar Piastri a lack of loyalty through the recent Formula 1 contract saga, saying the team went "above and beyond” to support him.

Szafnauer denies Alpine showed lack of loyalty to Piastri in F1 contract saga

F1’s Contract Recognition Board announced on Friday that Piastri's only valid contract for 2023 was with McLaren, putting an end to the dispute with Alpine which claimed to have a deal in place for him to replace Fernando Alonso. 

Piastri opened up about the saga in an interview with F1 that was published on Saturday, revealing the way in which Alpine handled matters was “upsetting” and “bizarre”

Asked by Autosport about Alpine’s loyalty towards Piastri during Saturday’s FIA press conference, Szafnauer pointed to the “heads of terms” agreement – a non-legal binding document - that was signed at the end of last year.

“We delivered everything above and beyond what we said we were going to do, including 3,500km in last year’s car, making him our reserve driver when McLaren and Mercedes asked if we could share him as a reserve because they didn’t have one,” said Szafnauer.

“We allowed him to do that. We paid him. That’s our loyalty to Oscar.”

Szafnauer called Piastri’s integrity into question last week, while the reigning F2 champion has also faced criticism for his role in the matter and his public statement denying he would drive for Alpine - despite previously informing the team in private.

OPINION: Why Alpine only has itself to blame for its F1 driver market blunders

Szafnauer did not retract his comment about Piastri when given the chance to on Saturday, saying Alpine “performed on a contract that we thought we had above and beyond”.

Oscar Piastri, Reserve Driver, Alpine F1 Team

Oscar Piastri, Reserve Driver, Alpine F1 Team

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

“The one thing we asked of Oscar in that contract was to be a driver for Alpine or to be placed somewhere else for 2023 and 2024,” Szafnauer said. “And that he didn’t do.”

The whole saga has left Alpine without a driver to partner Esteban Ocon for 2023. The team is understood to be pursuing Pierre Gasly, but would need to strike a deal with Red Bull to free him from his current AlphaTauri contract.

But Szafnauer did not think the case would reflect badly on Alpine’s image, believing that is “based on what happens on-track and how we perform.”

“We’ll do the best we can, not just for this year but we’ll continue to improve the team,” Szafnauer said.

“We’re on a recruiting drive, we’re spending money on tools, we understand what it takes to compete amongst the top three. That’s our goal, with the goal of winning a world championship in five years.

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“We’ve got to put the rudiments in place for that to happen, and we’re in the process of doing that. The best thing for Alpine’s image is to win on-track, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”

Comments from both Piastri and Alonso have noted struggles through negotiations with Alpine. Alonso said there was always a “strange feeling” for him in talks that ultimately stalled, paving the way for his shock switch to Aston Martin.

Szafnauer noted the November agreement with Piastri pre-dated his arrival at Alpine ahead of this summer, and said that while it would be “easy to blame people that aren’t here any more” it is “not my style”.

He said: “The right thing to do is to have a look at what happened, understand where the shortcomings were and fix them for the future.”

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