Oscar Piastri told Alpine ‘multiple times’ he was leaving before their announcement

Michelle Foster
Oscar Piastri standing on the grid with the Alpine team. Canada June 2022

Oscar Piastri has spoken of a “lack of clarity around my future, and ultimately a breakdown in trust” as his reasons for approaching McLaren for a 2023 drive.

F1’s Contract Recognition Board announced on Friday that Piastri’s only valid contract for next season was with McLaren, the CRB denying Alpine’s claim on their reserve driver.

It put to rest a month-long saga that began when Fernando Alonso announced he was leaving the team at the end of this season, Alpine confirmed Piastri as his replacement, and the driver took to social media to deny he’d be an Alpine driver next year.

Alpine continued to insist they had a contract with him, one that ran through to 2024, and that Otmar Szafnauer had informed him of his promotion before telling the world.

The latter, Piastri has confirmed, was true and led to a very uncomfortable situation for the driver who had already signed with McLaren on July 4.

Alpine’s announcement came almost a month later, August 2, even though Piastri had already told the team “multiple times” that he was leaving.

“That was a bizarre and frankly upsetting episode,” the Aussie told Formula1.com’s Lawrence Barretto.

“It was done publicly in front of some members of the team who were oblivious to the situation and I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of them.

“Once we were in private, I told Otmar what our position was and what he had been told multiple times before that. It was very surprising to me to make that announcement.”

As for his reasons for leaving, the 21-year-old spoke of breakdown in his relationship with Alpine which was in sharp contrast to his dealings with McLaren.

“The CRB ruling has confirmed I didn’t have a contract for the 2023 season [with Alpine],” he said. “I was free to choose my destiny – and I felt McLaren was a great opportunity.

“They were very straightforward and very keen and enthusiastic to have me. To be completely honest, there was a lack of clarity around my future at the team at Alpine.

“They publicly stated they wished to continue with Fernando for at least one or two more years. I respect that.

“But after spending the year out, my hopes were firmly set on an Alpine seat and the lack of clarity and, similarly to Fernando, a bit of a strange feeling in negotiations, it didn’t feel like it was the right decision for me [to stay around].

“The lack of clarity around my future, and ultimately a breakdown in trust, I felt the very attractive offer of McLaren and the positive dealings with them thus far were all reasons why I felt McLaren was where I was best off for the future.”

As for Sfaznauer’s speculation that Piastri, his manager Mark Webber and Alonso were having conversations behind his back that led to Alpine being two drivers short, Piastri pointed out that his deal with McLaren was signed long before Alonso decided to leave the team, long before Sebastian Vettel set that into motion.

“My decision was made well in advance, which made Alpine’s announcement probably even more confusing and upsetting because we had told the team that I wasn’t going to continue,” he said.

“It was quite upsetting as the announcement was false and it also denied me the opportunity to properly say goodbye to everyone at Enstone.

“I had been with team for a bit over two and a half years now, and for the rest of the team to find out I was leaving in that manner was very upsetting. I still haven’t had the opportunity to say goodbye and it’s something I want to do to show my gratitude to all the men and women at Enstone.”

The 2023 McLaren driver was also asked why he took to social media to deny Alpine’s announcement.

He replied: “It was the biggest moment of my career and probably my life up to now. To have that falsely announced was something my management and I felt we had to correct and there was also potential legal implications if we didn’t deny the announcement.

“It was not intended to be pointed or in any way anything more than factual. The last line was quite a strong one, but with the CRB ruling, it shows it was purely a fact.”