Christian Horner says the Oscar Piastri contract tussle ‘should just never happen’

Jon Wilde
Oscar Piastri wearing headphones. Montreal, June 2022.

Alpine's Oscar Piastri wearing headphones on the grid before the Canadian Grand Prix. Montreal, June 2022.

Christian Horner says the Oscar Piastri saga is a situation that simply should never have been allowed to happen.

The young Australian has never driven in a Formula 1 race but is the subject of a tug-of-war between this season’s fourth and fifth most successful teams.

A member of the Renault Sport Academy since the start of 2020, Piastri then won back-to-back Formula 3 and 2 titles before spending 2022 as test and reserve driver for Alpine – who wanted to give him a race seat for 2023 as replacement for Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso.

But within a couple of hours of Alpine announcing Piastri as next season’s team-mate to Esteban Ocon, the 21-year-old from Melbourne knocked that down and said he would not be racing for them.

Instead, he wants to join McLaren in place of Daniel Ricciardo, whose departure has now been confirmed.

It has been reported that Piastri actually has two valid contracts and it is now up to Formula 1’s Contract Recognition Board, which meets on Monday, to determine which one should be honoured.

Horner, the Red Bull team principal, cannot comprehend how such a pickle has materialised.

“Not being close to it, I don’t fully understand it because contractually that should just never happen,” Horner told Sky F1.

“If Renault or Alpine have invested into his junior career, they invest in youth because they are investing in it for the future and there obviously has to be an element of loyalty within that.

“I don’t understand contractually what’s going on there. But for him to even be in a position to think he doesn’t have to drive for Alpine next year obviously shows there’s something not right. Hopefully it will get sorted.

“I mean, he’s another great young talent who drove for the Arden team (founded by Horner and his father Garry) in Formula 4, Formula Renault, so I know him pretty well and he’s a great talent that should be on the grid.

“But there’s probably been a bit more mess around his debut than there should be.”

Christian Horner, team principal at Red Bull Racing, sitting on the pit wall gantry. Hungary July 2022

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer questioned Piastri’s “integrity” regarding his decision to throw the effort and expense they have put into his development back in their faces.

“He’s a promising young driver who hasn’t driven in Formula 1 yet and my wish for Oscar was that he had a bit more integrity,” Szafnauer told Sky F1.

“He signed a piece of paper back in November and we’ve done everything on our end of the bargain to prepare him for Formula 1. His end of the bargain was to either drive for us, or take a seat where we would place him, for the next three years and I just wish Oscar would have remembered what he signed in November and what he signed up to.”