Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi believes losing Oscar Piastri to McLaren sets a “dangerous precedent”, and has again questioned the value of having a junior driver programme.
Piastri joined the Alpine academy in 2020, the team helping to finance him as he raced his way to the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles in successive seasons.
Giving him a reserve driver role at their Formula 1 team for this season, it was thought that Alpine would promote him come 2023 but that didn’t happen, the team instead speaking with Fernando Alonso about a one-year extension.
So Piastri made plans of his own, after all he didn’t have a binding contract with Alpine.
Speaking with McLaren, he secured a 2023 race seat alongside Lando Norris which meant when Alpine lost Alonso and then announced Piastri as his replacement so began a month-long contract saga.
One that ended with F1’s Contract Recognition Board ruling that the Australian was a 2023 McLaren driver and that Alpine had no claim over him.
Rossi is still smarting as he feels McLaren “poached” Piastri, a driver that Alpine had invested in.
“It’s setting a dangerous precedent,” he told the official F1 website. “It’s creating a possible framework where driver academies are at risk. Manufacturers invest a lot in budding talents.
“The first remedy is to look at contracts differently – we will be much tougher. We learn form that, to take less of a naïve perspective on shaking hands and being partners on more legally binding terms, which will be a bit less friendly.
“Then there is the even bigger consideration – is it worth it, us investing so much in detecting and supporting talent?
“If someone who doesn’t do that kind of stuff, saves that money and then poaches them when they are fully trained – why don’t we do the same? It’s a tough question – as it’s about what you believe in.
“We believe in bringing youth through; it’s anchored in the Renault Group. It’s our values, giving a chance to young drivers. Values are important. You want to stand for something.”
Rossi reiterated Alpine may re-evaluate their junior driver programme after all this, wondering if it is worth it.
“We will honour our commitment to all drivers in our academy, but we’re wondering whether or not to continue,” he said. “We are torn apart.
“We believe in the value of the system but if we’re not protected, is it worth it?
“If we are not sure we can, and it becomes too complicated or too big a burden on the contract side – as contracts can only take you so far – you don’t want to make them so appealing because it binds you so much. We really wonder.
“It’s a big disappointment. Perhaps a big reality check.”