Alpine considering axing young driver programme after Oscar Piastri furore

Sam Cooper
Oscar Piastri in the paddock. Silverstone July 2022.

Laurent Rossi believes the Oscar Piastri affair has “scratched” F1 and said Alpine may abandon their academy as a result.

Alpine were very publicly snubbed by Piastri during the summer break as they sought to promote him to replace Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso.

The matter was eventually taken to the Contract Recognition Board, the case being decided in McLaren’s favour with Piastri announced as their 2023 driver moments after the decision was made public.

In the aftermath of the drama, Alpine have been very critical of the young Australian with their team principal Otmar Szafnauer going as far as saying he lacked integrity.

Alpine CEO Rossi has also not held back in his criticism, claiming the team “expected more loyalty”. Now Rossi has suggested the affair was not only an Alpine issue but a general sporting issue.

“Most of the people in the paddock feel the same way,” Rossi said, quoted by The Race.

“This is not good for the sport. Beyond our little scratch here at Alpine, I think the sport itself gets scratched a bit.”

The Frenchman also hinted that Alpine may halt their young driver academy, which Piastri was a member of, as they “were the one who got the burn for everyone else”.

“The problem it creates is it makes the market too fluid a place. That endangers the stakeholders that invest into it,” added the Frenchman.

“If you decide to save money every year by not investing in drivers, and then you just poach them with that money you saved, it’s a different proposition.

“I’m not sure therefore I want to continue training those drivers, or I’m gonna have to lock them in with a contract that might not be appealing to them.

“So how do you solve that? Now, we are really wondering whether or not [to continue] beyond the current batch of drivers we have and with whom we will honour until the end our obligations as we have multi-year plans with them.

“We wonder if we will take new drivers because why would we?”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said similar in the wake of the Piastri affair and said they would be taking a closer look at the contracts with their junior drivers.

“What I really stand firm for is all of us constructors are investing a lot of money in our junior programmes,” Wolff said.

“We invest human resources that go to the go-kart tracks, to the junior formulas, and in some cases it’s little money, in some cases it’s more.

“George Russell and Esteban Ocon, we financed them a long way. To know now a precedent has been set that if you are clever you can manoeuvre yourself out is something that’s clearly not good for the industry.

“So we will employ even more lawyers for even stricter contracts.”