"He never told us"- Alpine CEO backs Otmar Szafnauer's claims in Oscar Piastri fiasco

F1 Grand Prix of France - Final Practice
Laurent Rossi, CEO of Alpine F1, looks on in the Team Principals Press Conference prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on July 23, 2022, in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi backed his F1 team's principal Otmar Szafnauer's claims that the team was unaware of Oscar Piastri's signing with McLaren. The Frenchman explained that the team had managed to find the Australian a seat with Williams before they lost him to McLaren.

Explaining the whole fiasco with Piastri, the Alpine CEO said:

“We hired a person just to find him a seat [with another team], because we wanted to do that properly. By the end of April, we found him a seat at Williams. When the Williams opportunity was about to turn into a concrete deal, so much so that the seat fitting was scheduled, they [Piastri’s management team] said ‘we have a possible opportunity at McLaren. It was a bit disappointing. We felt it was a bit strange, because we expected a bit more loyalty considering how much we put in there. He didn’t say he was going to go, he said he had an opportunity.”

According to Rossi, Alpine worked a deal for Oscar Piastri with a 2023 seat at Williams earlier in April. The Frenchman explained that Piastri’s management approached them, informing them of an opportunity at McLaren, but with Daniel Ricciardo already signed until the end of the 2023 season, they did not fathom the possibility of a vacancy. Rossi felt that the McLaren opportunity had faded by July, which helped them promote him as a reserve with Fernando Alonso’s departure. He felt that the Australian was offered many contracts but did not sign any, despite their expectations of more loyalty from him after the investment they had made in his career.

Further detailing the sequence of events, Rossi said:

“Then we saw in July, the sixth I think, that [Daniel] Ricciardo was confirming for the year after [this is two days after, it later emerged, Piastri had signed with McLaren]. So we thought there is interest, but there might not even be a seat. There was perhaps an opportunity [at McLaren, but] the door is closing, so Oscar is still in play for us. It explains why we decided to promote him – he was reserve and we elevated in the same framework to race driver… He never signed any contracts we put to him. We put contracts forward many times. They were never signed. We could not retain him because he didn’t sign a contract with us. We were expecting more loyalty.”

Alpine expected more loyalty from Oscar Piastri and admit making legal mistakes

Laurent Rossi explained that Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer had spoken to Oscar Piastri before announcing him as a driver. The Alpine CEO clarified that they were unaware of the Australian signing a contract with McLaren. Admitting that mistakes were made on the legal side to be able to bind the F2 champion more legally to the team, Rossi felt the Williams offer was decent and believes they did their best to retain him.

Explaining the announcement and the confusion with announcing Piastri, Rossi said:

“Otmar [Szafnauer, Alpine Team Principal] saw him, told him, and we announced it. We never knew for a fact he had signed. He never told us. We still believed the Williams seat was a great one, a great opportunity to learn without a bit less pressure – a very good team to learn in, very seasoned, capable of growing talents like George [Russell, who spent three years at the team as something of an apprenticeship before being recalled to Mercedes].”
It's official! 😁#F1 #OP81 @mclaren
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.

Admitting they made legal mistakes, the Alpine CEO said:

“We made some mistakes, we made some legal technical mistakes. We left the door ajar by not forcing him in with a contract that is so tight he couldn’t move. Why did we do that? It’s a bit of an oversight because we never thought that when you give so much to someone, when you give them training, a reserve role, a seat in a partner team, he will not take it after being supported for so many years and winning the championship through your support.”

After the Contract Recognition Board ruled harshly against Alpine, details of the decision emerged where it was learned that the Australian had been leveraged against Alonso for a drive and vice versa. The French outfit lost their reserve driver due to their inability to be decisive about Piastri’s career and offer him a raw deal. The young driver has spoken since and admitted to being kept in a cloud of uncertainty during his tenure with the team.

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Edited by Anurag C
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