Otmar Szafnauer has admitted Daniel Ricciardo would be a “good recommendation” if Oscar Piastri leaves Alpine still searching for a 2023 driver.
Fernando Alonso’s sudden announcement that he will leave Alpine at the end of the season to join Aston Martin has sent the F1 ‘silly season’ into overdrive right at the start of the summer break.
Alpine looked to have the ideal replacement for the double former World Champion in rookie talent and reigning Formula 2 title-holder Piastri, who has been waiting patiently for an F1 opportunity having served as their test and reserve driver this year.
However, it appears that patience is now exhausted because after Alpine issued a statement confirming Piastri would race for them in 2023, the 21-year-old Australian countered with a social media post of his own insisting that was “wrong”.
Instead, the rumour mill is strongly suggesting Piastri and his manager Mark Webber have their eyes very firmly on the McLaren seat currently occupied by Ricciardo, their fellow Australian who has struggled since joining the team in 2021.
With Zak Brown, the McLaren CEO, having said in recent weeks there were “mechanisms” in Ricciardo’s contract to engineer a parting of the ways before the deal expires at the end of 2023, the inference is the team would not be averse to severing ties with the 33-year-old this year.
Even though Ricciardo himself posted on social media in July that he has no plans to go anywhere any time soon.
— Daniel Ricciardo (@danielricciardo) July 13, 2022
With his performances in 2022 having not been up to scratch, suitors of Ricciardo are likely to be fewer than was the case back in 2020 when he lined up his McLaren move should he find himself looking for another seat.
But a return to Alpine, for whom he drove in 2019 and 2020 when they were branded as Renault, remains a possibility according to Szafnauer, their team principal.
While admitting Piastri remained their first choice to partner Ocon, Szafnauer told reporters, quoted by AS: “Give us some time. Oscar is our number one candidate. We haven’t got to the ‘what if it’s not Oscar?’ stage, but a lot of drivers have called and Ricciardo is a good recommendation.”
Szafnauer also indicated the Piastri picture had been clouded somewhat by the fact Webber is on the other side of the world, with the time difference potentially making communication more difficult.
“His (Piastri’s) manager is in Australia. I’m trying to talk to Mark (Webber), we are writing to each other,” said Szafnauer.