Otmar Szafnauer has said he “would not be surprised” to learn major figures in Formula 1 had been sharing information with each other behind closed doors.
The Alpine boss was at the centre of rather embarrassing affair when his team sort to replace the departing Fernando Alonso with Oscar Piastri, only to be publicly snubbed by the young Australian on Twitter.
The move has kickstarted the beginning of F1’s ‘silly season’ with Piastri said to be set to sign for McLaren leaving Daniel Ricciardo’s future currently up in the air.
Understandably Szafnauer has felt let down by major players involved in the negotiations and, given the quickness of Alonso’s move to Aston Martin, it was put to him that maybe there had been some talk behind Alpine’s backs.
Why Alonso being at Aston Martin will work out well
Fernando Alonso has made a bold step to go to Aston Martin, and it could work out well for him.
In an interview with Spanish outlet El Confidencial, Szafnauer was asked if he had been naïve given Alonso, Mark Webber (Piastri’s manager) and Flavio Briatore were all very close to which he replied he “would not be surprised” to learn information had been shared.
“Look, I have no record of it [information behind shared], but this is Formula 1 and maybe in a couple of years someone says that they have evidence of shared information, I would not be surprised,” the Alpine boss said.
“I always tell everyone that in Formula 1 you have to act as if everyone knows everything. That there are no secrets in these things. When you ask someone not to say anything, they act like everyone knows (laughs).
“That’s how I’ve run my business in Formula 1 for 25 years. And if this (sharing information between the protagonists) has happened, you should not be surprised.”
Szafnauer has been vocal in his criticism of Piastri who he believes has a contract in place for 2023, going as far as questioning the integrity of the 21-year-old.
“The strategic plan is very good and Piastri knows it, better even than McLaren’s. We are ahead of them in the Championship and we hope to be ahead of them at the end of the World Championship. We have a big budget and people with a lot of experience.
“I just arrived, I know the areas to reinforce, the technical team, we are recruiting people in the areas that we need to improve and we are implementing new tools.
“In our future, in that 100-race plan that 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 literally invested millions and millions of euros to prepare him. So I don’t get it either, you should ask him.”
A timeline of the Oscar Piastri affair which left Alpine out in the cold
While the origins of this saga arguably date back to when Piastri and Alonso both joined Alpine, setting them on a collision course to one day be fighting over the same seat, it really ramped up last November when Alpine claim the Australian signed a new contract with the team which will become important later.
The season trundles along with Alonso impressing while having a game of ‘who will blink first?’ with the Alpine higher ups. With his deal set to end in November, Alonso is after a new contract but Alpine seem to be taking their time debating whether to only offer a year or perhaps no extension and catapult Piastri into the race seat.
Then, the game changes as Sebastian Vettel announces he is leaving Aston Martin which opens up a race seat for 2023. From the way Szafnauer has been talking of late, it seems the idea of Alonso moving had not crossed his mind so perhaps he did not pay too much attention to the Aston Martin vacancy.
The first he became aware that something was afoot was on the morning after the Hungarian Grand Prix to which the Romanian-American awoke to find his two-time World Champion had departed. The day before Alonso had told Szafnauer he was going on holiday to Greece and would not be able to reached so it came of little surprise when the Alpine boss rang with no answer.
I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year. This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.
— Oscar Piastri (@OscarPiastri) August 2, 2022
“Alonso told me on Sunday night that he was going to a Greek island on a boat, I think he mentioned it, not for me to go with him (laughs). I called him a couple of times in the morning and couldn’t reach him. It’s what he told me, that it would be difficult to locate him, so that’s why he said that.”
Alpine reacted quickly, announcing Piastri that afternoon, who they believed had signed a contract last year that allowed them to promote him for 2023, only to be publicly rebuked by Piastri on social media.
“I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year. This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year,” the Australian tweeted.
It does not take much to realise that Piastri would not say that without a guarantee from another team which is strongly rumoured to be McLaren.
So that is where we stand. Alpine believe they have a contract with Piastri, Piastri believes he has signed for McLaren and McLaren are trying to negotiate a $21 million buy-out clause on Daniel Ricciardo’s contract.