Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi is letting go of his grudge against Oscar Piastri, after all the team is “better off” with Pierre Gasly and probably no-one was more surprised by his McLaren move than Daniel Ricciardo, which “says a lot”.
Rossi and Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer have had a few choice things to say about Piastri ever since the team’s former reserve driver publicly turned down their offer of a 2023 race seat.
Instead the Aussie signed with McLaren, replacing his compatriot Daniel Ricciardo at the Woking team, with Alpine taking the matter to F1’s Contract Recognition Board.
The Board ruled the only valid contract Piastri had for the 2023 season was with McLaren, as all Alpine had was a term sheet with driver.
Alpine, it’s fair to say based on their own comments, were not happy and even went as far as to question the driver’s loyalty.
Seven months after the saga began, Rossi has backed down on that position.
“Look, I wouldn’t call drivers disloyal to be honest,” he told the latest edition of the ‘Beyond The Grid‘ podcast.
“They also have their own careers to manage, and God knows it’s a difficult one, because there’s really few of them. And it’s ferocious, as you said. And they don’t have an easy one, right?
“If they have a bad year, they just get the boot, and it’s tough. So, I think they also need to manage their own interests.
“Now, there’s probably ways to do it,” Rossi continued.
“I would have not necessarily prevented Oscar from leaving should he have come to us with something a bit more structured, let’s say, ‘hey guys, I’m also having this offer, what do we do? Can we talk?’
“It just caught us by surprise. I guess it also caught Ricciardo by surprise, which says a lot, right?
“That might be a little bit candid. And we don’t want to be candid anymore.
“It’s okay, it’s over now. We learn the lessons for ourselves. The rest is just one person. I actually wish him well. And that’s about it.”
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‘Alpine better off with Pierre Gasly now’
As for whether he’d ever welcome Piastri back to Alpine if the McLaren driver ever came calling, Rossi reckons Alpine landed up “better off” by signing Gasly as Esteban Ocon’s new team-mate.
“We’ll see when we get there, right,” he said. “But there’s no need to hold a grudge. It’s like it’s destroying you and destroying the things you want to do. So, you know, that’s gone.
“We’re better off with Pierre now, so why would we want anything else? I’m fine with that.
“If down the road, the opportunity arises, I’m not saying no, I’m not saying yes, we’ll see. We’ll see when we get there.”
Lessons learned with Alpine to be ‘more stringent’ with contracts’
Rossi admits Alpine took lessons from the Piastri saga, chief among which structuring contracts in such a way that situations like last season do not occur again.
“We learned a lot to be honest,” he said, “and we’d be foolish not to learn from that. We learnt a couple of things, I would say there’s no such thing as loyalty, especially when individual interests are at stake.
“It’s difficult to combine both for people that are sometimes a bit too young to weigh the pros and cons of both.
“Then we also learned that we were insufficiently prepared on a couple of areas, especially in the way we structure our contracts with the academy drivers and the way we transfer that into the Formula 1 world. You heard Toto [Wolff] and Christian [Horner], I believe, saying he is going to set the precedent.
“So we learned that we left too many doors open in our contract, because no-one thought those people would just go and leave using that open door, it will only be normal to come back to the team that helped you.
“We are going to change that, we’ve changed that already, we’re a bit more corporate and protective of our contracts now. It’s a bit more stringent.
“If you want to sign something with Alpine, it’s less of ‘let’s shake hands and we’re happy to have you in the family’. You’re still in the family, but you’re in a family with a contract.
“It’s like your kids have a contract, you’re the parents. But it’s the way it is. You never expect your kids to leave the bedroom one night and never show up again. And you certainly wouldn’t put locks in contracts – we’re forced to do that a bit.”