Oscar Piastri criticised by Otmar Szafnauer for showing a lack of loyalty to Alpine

Sam Cooper
Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri. Melbourne April 2022.

Otmar Szafnauer has criticised Oscar Piastri for a lack of loyalty following his public snub of an offer of a race seat at Alpine.

It may have been the first day of the F1 summer break but it was by no means relaxing for Szafnauer. Fernando Alonso had decided he had enough of waiting for a contract offer from Alpine so jumped ship to join Aston Martin to replace Sebastian Vettel.

Alpine then tried to save face by announcing that Piastri, a man who had been with the team since 2020, would be promoted only to then be publicly rejected by the Australian who took to Twitter to Instagram to say that not only had he not signed a contract but that he also would not be racing for the team in 2023.

The young Australian is heavily rumoured to be taking the place of his fellow countryman Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren but his path to that seat may not be so easy with Szafnauer maintaining they have a contract with him.

“We have a contract with Piastri, which he signed in November,” the Alpine boss told El Confidencial. “We have spoken to our lawyers and they have told us that this is a binding contract, so part of that contract allows us to put Oscar in one of our cars in 2023, which is the reason we issued the press release.

“There is also an option for 2024 and the possibility for us to ‘loan’ the driver to another team. We wanted Fernando with us for one more year and then a ‘loan’ of Oscar for 2023.

“I have always said in all my press conferences that Piastri would be in Formula 1 in 2023 and it is because I knew he could be in our car or in another car, on loan, if Fernando had stayed.

“But Alonso, for whatever reason – and I think I know the reasons, although you should ask him – he goes to Aston Martin. So, we started to finalise the agreement with Piastri, and instead of giving him away, we decided to put him in our car. Hence, the statement.”

Not only did Szafnauer say they had a contract with Piastri but also that he expected more loyalty having been the team to introduce him to the sport. He even criticised Piastri’s “integrity as a human being.”

“I expected more loyalty from Piastri,” Szafnauer said.

“He should have it with that team that has taken care of him, that has taken him to the World Championship and, above all, that during the last year has put him in a Formula 1 car so that he would be ready, so that he would know the circuits.

“I expected more loyalty from Oscar than he is showing. I started in 1989 in Formula 1 and I’ve never seen anything like this. And it’s not about Formula 1, it’s about integrity as a human being.

“It could happen in ice hockey or soccer, it doesn’t matter. But you don’t do that. He signed a piece of paper, a document, saying he would do something different.

“For me, the way I grew up, I don’t need to sign a piece of paper and then have someone say, ‘You’re lying, because you signed this.’ For me, if you say, ‘Hey, help me, I’ll help you tomorrow,’ there’s no way I would go back on my word. No way.

“You did everything I asked you to do (from Alpine to Piastri) and now I promise you that if you do this, I will do this. I don’t need a piece of paper where it says, ‘With a clause, I can get out of here’.”

The Alpine boss also stated he does understand why a driver would reject Alpine and said that there would be no shortage of drivers wanting to race for them next season.

“I think it’s a question for Piastri, because I don’t understand it.

“In our future, in that hundred-race plan we are all working on, I think there is also room for Piastri. And we have supported him.

“There should be some loyalty to the fact that we have invested literally millions and millions of euros to prepare him. So I don’t understand it either, you should ask him.

“If Piastri is not in the car – which I think he is going to be – because Fernando is out, I have about 14 phone calls from drivers who are interested, because the Alpine seat is the most valuable seat left.”

Szafnauer issued a warning to any Piastri suitors that paying them compensation was “logical and fair.”

“We have to take into account that last year we put him in a single-seater and he did 3,500 kilometres,” Szafnauer added.

“We have done seven independent tests with him and this is not cheap at all. The cost of an engine alone is 1,750,000 euros. The mechanics, the team that managed those tests, the flights and travel…

“We have spent lots and lots of money on Piastri to prepare him for the future. And, if that future is not with us, it is logical and fair that we seek compensation.”

 

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