‘Oscar Piastri rejecting Alpine one of the most astonishing decisions by an F1 rookie’
Oscar Piastri’s call to turn down an Alpine Formula 1 seat to race for McLaren in 2023 ranks among “the most astonishing decisions” ever made by a driver yet to make a grand prix start, F1 journalist Peter Windsor has claimed.
Piastri, who will compete in his home race for the first time at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, was at the centre of one of the most controversial transfer sagas in F1 history last year.
Following Fernando Alonso’s unexpected decision to leave Alpine for Aston Martin for 2023, Alpine quickly announced Piastri as the two-time World Champion’s successor – but the Melbourne-born racer had already signed a deal to replace compatriot Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren.
With the Renault-owned Alpine outfit funding Piastri’s junior career as he won the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles in successive years in 2020 and ’21, the saga added an extra edge to the fight for fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship between Alpine and McLaren.
Alpine eventually prevailed and with McLaren making a poor start to the 2023 season, Windsor believes Piastri made the wrong move.
Speaking via his Twitch channel, he said: “You’ve got to say Alpine are not doing a bad job, Mr Piastri.
“This is the guy that turned down the Alpine race drive and chose McLaren – and of course McLaren will get better and, who knows, four years down the road Piastri might be World Champion in a McLaren.
“That could well happen. He’s got the talent, he’s got the pace – no doubt about that.
“But the significant point is that he actually said no to Alpine and yes to McLaren and that’s one of the most astonishing decisions ever taken by a young driver who’d never started a grand prix I’ve every heard of or seen in my life.
“[I] still haven’t got over it actually, that he could do that.
“And I know the argument from the Piastri side is, ‘well, we couldn’t trust Alpine, they weren’t replying to emails, they weren’t doing this, they weren’t doing that’.
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“Well, what Alpine were doing was actually their own way of doing things.
“They were focusing on a lot of other stuff – trying to keep Fernando, developing the car, getting a new budget for the next year or whatever they were doing – but they were nonetheless keeping him in the loop.
“He was doing a bit of sim work, he was doing a bit of testing.
“And guess what?
“Piastri was wrong and Alpine were right: they were just keeping him in the loop and they did give him the drive as soon as it was available.
“And Piastri thought, ‘they don’t want me and they’re leading me down a garden path that’s going to go nowhere, I’m going to go to McLaren’.
“Well, he thought that – but he was wrong to think that, as we now know.
“The proof is that he could have raced the Alpine, so he made a wrong decision on the basis that Alpine didn’t want him. That was the wrong thing.
“Whether he’s made the right decision to go to McLaren, as I say, four years down the road will tell us, but right now you’d have to say Alpine are not a bad-looking team.”
With McLaren’s poor form raising questions over the future of Piastri’s team-mate Lando Norris, Windsor speculated that the British driver could end up behind the wheel of the car Piastri turned down in 2024.
He added: “So here’s a question: if Lando Norris was offered an Alpine drive for next year, would he take it?
“That’s an interesting one, isn’t it?
“He might think, ‘well, they’re not too bad, breath of fresh air – why not give it a go?’
“He probably wouldn’t take it, but he might. He might.
“Depends who’s in the other car, of course. I think he’d probably prefer to have [Esteban] Ocon than [Pierre] Gasly, but both of them are pretty quick.”