The day Oscar Piastri sent Formula 1 into epic Twitter meltdown

Henry Valantine
McLaren driver Oscar Piastri at Spa.

Oscar Piastri smiles outside the McLaren motorhome.

We should have known as soon as the famously private Sebastian Vettel joined social media that something was up.

Sure enough, a few hours later, a video emerged from the four-time World Champion on his new Instagram account announcing his retirement from Formula 1 at the end of 2022, and silly season was officially underway.

The first twist in the tale came shortly afterwards, when Fernando Alonso, as he often has in the past, announced a shock move from Alpine to Aston Martin. The good news from Alpine’s perspective was that they had the reigning Formula 2 champion, Oscar Piastri, ready and waiting in the wings to step up…

The Oscar Piastri tweet that sent Alpine, and F1 fans, into a tailspin

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

Within a day of Alonso confirming his departure to Aston Martin, which had already caught Alpine somewhat off-guard, they used their ready-made contingency plan and announced on August 2, 2022, that Alpine Academy driver Oscar Piastri would step up to Formula 1 for 2023 to take Alonso’s place.

Alonso has a seat, Piastri has a seat after a year on the sidelines following back-to-back F3 and F2 titles, so all is well, right?

Wrong.

At 7pm BST, Twitter lit up when Piastri posted the now-infamous words: “I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year. This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”

Wait. What? 

How could he not be driving at Alpine? He’s their reserve driver, has been a part of their junior ranks and, based on how the 2022 season is panning out, is probably the best seat available to him for 2023.

Besides, other rival teams don’t even have seats available…

What happened between Oscar Piastri and McLaren?

Needless to say, Alpine were not best pleased and intended to take legal action as soon as they knew what was going on, and it later transpired that a few weeks earlier on July 4, Piastri and manager Mark Webber penned a contract with McLaren to join them from 2023.

This was initially a reserve deal but was constructed in a way that it would become a race seat once they could agree terms on an early termination of the contract of the underperforming Daniel Ricciardo.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown later admitted the team had to “write a big cheque” to dispense of Ricciardo’s services early, but Piastri and Webber’s work in the background to put him in a position to be on the grid in 2023 was done long before we knew about it in public and, seemingly, long before Alpine knew as well – even though the man himself claims he told Alpine “multiple times” he was leaving them.

And it wasn’t for several weeks before we knew about Piastri’s whereabouts for 2023, with rumours abuzz that he could have been on the way to Williams over the course of the summer break, or maybe even taking his compatriot’s seat at McLaren.

But on August 24, McLaren allowed Ricciardo the opportunity, and dignity, to post a video on his social media channels announcing that he would be leaving the team at the end of 2022.

“Obviously, we put in a lot of effort on both sides, but [it] just hasn’t worked the way we wanted so the team’s decided to make a change for next year,” Ricciardo said.

“We had a lot of discussions, but in the end, we mutually agreed that it was the right thing for both of us. I will continue to do the rest of this year, absolutely, and I’ll continue to give it my all.”

And with it later transpiring that Piastri was the one to be replacing Ricciardo, Alpine were straight onto the FIA and its Contract Recognitions Board to fight for his services against McLaren.

After a legal wrangle between Alpine, McLaren and the FIA, the Contract Recognitions Board ruled that McLaren were the team who in fact held a valid contract with the young Aussie for the 2023 season.

So, by September 2, a full month after *that* tweet and a whole lot of stress, headlines, legal issues, burnt bridges and not-so-kind words thrown his way by higher-ups at Alpine, Oscar Piastri was a Formula 1 driver.

No pressure on the rookie, then.

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Has Oscar Piastri made the right decision?

On the evidence of the past few races, it would seem so.

McLaren struggled (to say the least) at the beginning of the year, with a slow car while Piastri was getting his feet under the table and Lando Norris carried on, as best as he could, his excellent form from the past few seasons.

But after a raft of upgrades and a better understanding of the car himself, Piastri has been right on his team-mate’s pace in the past three rounds, leading his first laps in F1 during the sprint in Spa, starting on the front row for that event and coming oh-so close to a first podium finish in the meantime.

With Alpine in disarray as their management turnover continues, we’ll borrow a phrase from our PlanetF1.com colleague Oliver Harden in his post-Spa conclusions in saying that Piastri and Webber showed a ruthlessness and foresight in not just pursuing any Formula 1 seat, but the right seat.

When he was asked about the year he has had in Belgium at the weekend and reflected on his time at McLaren so far, Piastri told media including PlanetF1.com at Spa that the way his current team pursued him is what helped swing the balance.

“I think the biggest thing in that situation was McLaren’s intent to have me in the team; how passionate they were to have me,” he said.

“And you know, even since I’ve been in the team, how passionate they still are having me, and it’s been nice to be in an environment where I’m really wanted – and I feel like I’ve been able to repay that back, and hopefully I’m bringing to the team what they thought I would bring.

“So it’s been nice to have these results, but I think the biggest thing was just their motivation and wanting to have me in the team in the first place. It’s always a very nice feeling to have people want you.”

And from what we have seen so far, we’re looking forward to seeing more as well. Hopefully there’s just a little less drama attached than his arrival into the sport…

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