The Wiley old fox that is Fernando Alonso and his manager Flavio Briatorre have kicked off the summer break in good fashion. The F1 ‘silly season’ is well under way after the Spanish F1 world champion revealed on August 1st, 1 day after the race in Hungary, he would be leaving the French owned outfit Alpine F1 to join Aston Martin.
Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnaeur revealed the first he knew of Alonso leaving was from Aston Martin’s press reales, which clearly indicates Alonso has been irritated by the team’s lack of progress over his contract negotiations for 2023.
It is probable Alpine had an option to retain Fernando until the last day of July and the Spanish world champion revealed he was leaving the team 1 day later on August 1st.
Insiders reveal Alpine were offering only a 1 year deal whilst Alonso wanted to continue for another 2 seasons.
It is also probable that Aston Martin knew of Sebastian Vettel’s intentions to retire from F1 several weeks ago and requested he hold fire making any announcement until they could secure his replacement. Aston clearly had a contract signed and good to go with Alonso by the 1st August if Alpine had not agreed to Alonso’s terms.
A day later and matters ‘go down the rabbit hole’. in a slightly strange manner, Alpine rushed out a statement stating their new driver replacing Fernando would be F2 champion and Renault academy driver Australian Oscar Piastri.
Yet unlike the usual reciprocal “love in’s” these occasions portray, Piastri was silent making no comment.
Alpine F1 issued this tweet.
2023 driver line-up confirmed: Esteban Ocon 🤝 Oscar Piastri
After four years as part of the Renault and Alpine family, Reserve Driver Oscar Piastri is promoted to a race seat alongside Esteban Ocon starting from 2023. pic.twitter.com/4Fvy0kaPn7
— BWT Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) August 2, 2022
Less than two hours later Oscar Piastri responded claiming, “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.”
Clearly Piastri who has never driven in F1 has another contract arranged by his manager Mark Webber. Alpine claimed they had been trying to contact Webber since Alonso’s announcement, but he is in Australia – where clearly telecommunications don’t work like in Europe 🙂
Late in the day an Alpine spokesperson told the BBC, “We believe we are legally correct in our statement [over Piastri’s contract] but don’t have anything further to say.”
The Alpine team principal Otmar Sznafaeuner commented, ”I hear the same rumours that you do in the pitlane. But what I do know is that he does have contractual obligations to us. And we do to him. And we’ve been honouring those obligations all year. And those obligations, last through ’23, and possibly in ’24, if some options are taken up.
“And our obligations to him this year was to be a reserve driver, to also put him in last year’s car for a significant amount of time. We’re well over half that programme of 5000 kilometres, which isn’t insignificant, in last year’s car, in preparation for a race next year.
“Also FP1s, simulation work, and we’ve been performing those obligations on both sides. So he’s been performing, we’ve been performing. So therefore we do have a legal contract with him into the future for ’23. And if an option is taken up, for ’24. So I don’t know what he’s done with McLaren. Like I said, I’m not privy to that.”
This level of detail revealed by the Alpine team boss is surely the start of a legal process where the the Alpine team will seek to demonstrate Piastri has received a tutelage from them and they are entitled to his services in recompense.
If Alpine do take the legal route to enforce a contract they believe they have with Piastri, the end result will not see the Australian driving for the team. As in the English Premier League when players want to leave before the end of their contractual relationship, the football team’s merely look for recompense from the player or the team they are leaving to go to.
Piastri is set to take Alonso’s seat for Friday practice one at the next GP, though that now seems unlikely.
Fernando in the meantime failed to inform the team he was leaving and left it to the Aston Martin press conference to hand in his notice.
An embarrassed Otma Sznafaeuner revealed Alonso had not told him of his decision and that as far as he knew he was “on a boat in Greece”.
Alonso tartly responded to embarrass his team boss on social media stating, “the signal is fine in Oviedo” – which is his home town in Spain – not Greece.
Alpine are facing a similar situation to Chip Ganassi Racing who compete in the USA motorsport IndyCar. They recently announced the retention of their driver Alex Palour who won the 2021 drivers title only to find he came out saying he had no contract with the team.
Again it is Zak Brown and McLaren behind the poaching of Palou, just as is most likely the case with Oscar Piastri.
The atmosphere at Alpine is likely to be caustic for the rest of the season as they battle with McLaren for the coveted P4 constructors prize.
Fernando conceded ground to his team mate Estban Ocon at the recent Hungarian GP when Ocon almost pushed him into the pit wall defending his position. With his eyes on a new venture at Aston Martin it’s likely if Ocon gets his elbows out too far again in future races he’ll suffer the retaliation of Alonso who now has nothing to lose.
Alpine could have avoided this embarrassing and the consequences for the next 9 races by choosing either Alonso or Piastri as their driver for 2023 – and signing a proper contract. They now appear embarrassingly amateurish whilst Sznfaeuner’s ex boss Lawrence Stroll at Aston will be chuckling into his morning coffee.
Regardless of any legal challenge, Alpine need another driver for 2023, which puts the probable outgoing McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo firmly in the frame.