‘90% certain’ Alpine’s saga with Oscar Piastri is heading to the High Court

Michelle Foster
Oscar Piastri looking very serious as he watches the track action. Austria July 2022

Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri looking very serious as he watches the track action. Austria July 2022

Otmar Szafnauer says he is “90 percent certain” Alpine’s contractual saga with Oscar Piastri will head to the High Court because if he’s not with the team next season, they will want compensation.

Alpine have invested heavily in Piastri’s motor racing career over the past two-and-a-half years, the driver having joined the Renault Sport Academy in January 2020.

However, that relationship is on the rocks after the Australian publicly refuted Alpine’s claims that he would replace Fernando Alonso next season, Piastri making it clear that he “will not” be racing for the F1 team.

That could yet prove to be a very expensive decision.

It is being reported that Piastri has valid contracts for 2023 with both Alpine and McLaren, the latter said to have given him a reserve driver deal that will be elevated to a race driver contract as soon as they resolve Daniel Ricciardo’s exit.

Szafnauer reckons the saga will carry all the way through to the High Court as, should F1’s Contract Recognition Board rule that Piastri has a legal obligation to Alpine but one he does not wish to uphold, Alpine want compensation.

The team boss told Reuters: “Going to the High Court is over 90 percent certain that’s what we’ll do.

“If the CRB says ‘your licence is only valid at Alpine’, and then he (Piastri) says ‘that’s great but I’m never driving for them, I’ll just sit out a year’, then you’ve got to go to the High Court for compensation.”

What that number will be the 57-year-old does not yet know.

“We haven’t sat down with the accountants to figure out everything we’ve spent,” he said. “We will have to do that if we go to the High Court.”

Fernando Alonso stands next to Alpine reserve Oscar Piastri for a sponsor event. Monaco May 2022.

Confusion over Oscar Piastri’s change of heart, and change of plans

That Piastri was committed to Alpine, took up a reserve driver role with Alpine and spoke of one day racing for Alpine only to then change his mind, could be because of Williams.

With Alpine believing that Fernando Alonso was about to sign a one-year extension to stay on as Esteban Ocon’s 2023 team-mate, Alpine were reported in talks with Williams about a race seat for their reserve driver.

The team had hoped that Piastri would replace Nicholas Latifi and they’d be able to continue with Alonso while keeping the Australian happy.

But it seems he wasn’t happy with that, the reigning Formula 2 champion – used to winning races – not enamoured with the thought of a season at the back of the grid.

He therefore began talks with McLaren, his manager Mark Webber keen on him replacing the under-fire Ricciardo so much so it has been reported that he actually has a reserve driver contract with McLaren as they try find an exit door for Ricciardo.

That is not a given which means, it would seem, Piastri was more okay with another year on the sidelines than he was with the idea of racing for Williams and then stepping up to Alpine.

A baffling decision, one that Formula 1 is waiting with bated breath to understand.