‘I’ve never lied and I never will’ – Otmar Szafnauer doubles down on Oscar Piastri claim

Sam Cooper
Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer. Austria July 2022.

Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer has reiterated he never lied about the events that unfolded between himself and Oscar Piastri.

Szafnauer and McLaren have given conflicting timelines of when exactly certain people were told certain things, with McLaren insisting they had given Alpine ample warning about Piastri’s impending departure.

The French team maintain the most they knew was what they had learned from rumours in the media and they believed Piastri was still an Alpine driver when they told him he would be racing for them full-time come 2023.

The way that process unfolded is also a bone of contention, with Szafnauer claiming he had told Piastri while the 21-year-old was in Alpine’s simulator.

“I told Oscar,” Szafnauer said before the Belgian Grand Prix. “He happened to be in the simulator so I went and found him, and he smiled and was thankful.”

However, the reveal of the CRB’s findings show Piastri had already signed a contract with McLaren on July 4, almost a month before Alpine announced him as their next driver.

Szafnauer maintained they were kept in the dark, but McLaren’s Andreas Seidl said Alpine were well aware of what was going on.

“Alpine was well in advance — before the announcement they made regarding Oscar driving for them next year — informed by Oscar, including conversations that also Zak [Brown] and myself had with the management at Alpine about what was going on,” said Seidl.

Piastri has said Szafnauer told him he would be racing for Alpine publicly despite knowing he had signed for McLaren, and the Australian felt the public nature of the announcement meant he could not “cause a scene”.

“That was a bizarre and frankly upsetting episode,” he told F1.com. “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.”

However, Szafnauer has refuted this claim and said he did not lie about the circumstances of Piastri being informed.

“I’ve never lied to you and I never will,” he told reporters before the Dutch Grand Prix. “But what I can tell you is, reiterate what I said before, Oscar was in the simulator. When he finished his simulator session, I went and told him of the release and to congratulate him. And he smiled and said ‘thank you’.

“Was there a group of people there? I can tell you no – it was myself and the simulator technician, who will happen to be in the same room. But if you’ve ever seen a simulator, it’s a pretty big room and there were three of us in that room. So it wasn’t a group of people. It wasn’t bizarre, and he smiled and said ‘thank you’.”

Szafnauer has not shied away from his criticism of Piastri and has questioned his “integrity”.