Alpine say ‘selfish species perish’, but driver exits understandable

Jamie Woodhouse
Oscar Piastri in the McLaren garage. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Oscar Piastri preparing in the McLaren garage at the Yas Marina Circuit. Abu Dhabi, November 2022.

Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer says the selfish “perish”, though if this is a driver-related dig, there are two sides to the coin.

As far as on-track results are concerned, 2022 was a highly successful year for the Alpine team, their second year of Formula 1 competition after the rebranding of the Renault works team.

Like McLaren, Alpine recovered from a rocky start to become midfield leaders, but with a sustained development path which brought continued gains, they were able to secure P4 in the Constructors’ Championship, a result made less definitive only by numerous reliability wobbles for the Renault power unit.

It was off-track where the situation was particularly tricky for Alpine in 2022, the team forced to contend with two drivers deciding to jump ship.

As the wait continued for news on a new contract for Fernando Alonso, it was then announced that the Spaniard would join Aston Martin from 2023 on a multi-year deal, replacing the retiring Sebastian Vettel.

Alpine’s reserve driver and academy member Oscar Piastri rejected the call-up, and after a battle with McLaren that went to Formula 1’s Contract Recognition Board, he ultimately signed with the Woking outfit to replace Daniel Ricciardo from 2023.

Alpine did not hold back when expressing their disappointment in Piastri, and now as team principal Szafnauer reflected on the lessons of the harsh, political side of Formula 1, he spoke of how being “selfish” results in a species ceasing to exist, believing the same may prove to be true in Formula 1.

A hint at the driver situation which Alpine found themselves in last season, no doubt.

“I think species that collaborate, survive. Species that are selfish, perish,” Szafnauer told media personnel.

“That’s true in history, and I think that might apply to Formula 1, too, but let’s see what the future brings.”

Of course, for Alpine it is easy to see why they would feel somewhat blindsided, especially by the nature of Piastri’s exit, though as full details emerged on how his and Alonso’s situation came about, it was understandable why both decided to move on.

Despite being 41, Alonso is still seemingly operating at the very top of his game, so understandably was looking for more than the one-year extension that Alpine were seemingly leaning towards.

There was a multi-year seat going at Aston Martin, a team investing heavily in their goal to reach the front of the grid, so it is easy to see why Alonso decided it was right for his career to take that plunge.

As for Piastri, he has already said that there was “a lack of clarity around my future at Alpine” and a “breakdown in trust”, with the team saying they wished to continue with Alonso for another year, maybe two.

So when McLaren came calling, Piastri rightly took that chance to confirm his place on the 2023 F1 grid, having been unlucky to miss out after a sublime 2021 title-winning F2 campaign.

Alpine did not come out of the situation wounded, as it allowed them to sign Pierre Gasly as he exited the Red Bull fold a year before his contract ended. After a frustrating season in the poor AlphaTauri AT03 and staring at the closed door of a Red Bull return, racing for his home team Alpine will be an exciting opportunity for both parties.

Alonso meanwhile gets to continue his Formula 1 story with an exciting project, and Piastri, arguably the most exciting young prospect who was unable to break into F1, now gets his opportunity at McLaren to build on a stellar junior career.

Were his actions selfish? Technically yes. Were they done with malice and without good reason? No.

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