Oscar Piastri has officially joined the McLaren Formula 1 team for the 2023 season and will succeed Daniel Ricciardo alongside Lando Norris. But the young Australian could have joined another F1 team. Indeed, Williams had drawn up a list of drivers likely to join the team next year. And Alpine has confirmed contacts with the team with Piastri likely to be racing for the Grove outfit next season.
As has been in the news over the last few days, the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board (CRB) recently ruled in the case between Alpine and McLaren regarding the signing of Oscar Piastri’s contract: “The Tribunal has reached a unanimous decision that the only contract to be recognised by the Commission is the contract between McLaren Racing Limited and Mr Piastri dated 4 July 2022. Mr Piastri is entitled to drive for McLaren Racing Limited for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.”
The young Australian, who is currently the French team’s reserve driver, will join McLaren next season and take over from Daniel Ricciardo alongside Lando Norris. Nevertheless, the affair has given rise to some criticism of Oscar Piastri, judged unfair by Andreas Seidl, team McLaren’s boss. The 21 year old driver then made a point of justifying his choice.
“The CRB decision confirmed that I did not have a contract for the 2023 season [with Alpine]. I was free to choose my destiny – and I felt McLaren was a great opportunity,
“They were very direct and very keen and enthusiastic to have me. To be quite honest, there was a lack of clarity around my future with the Alpine team. They said publicly that they wanted to continue with Fernando [Alonso] for at least one or two more years. I respect that,” he explained in an interview with the F1 website.
Oscar Piastri went on to elaborate: “But after spending the year, my hopes were firmly set on an Alpine seat and the lack of clarity and, as with Fernando, a bit of a strange feeling in the negotiations, I didn’t feel it was the right decision for me [to stay],
“The lack of clarity around my future ultimately meant a breach of trust, I felt McLaren’s very attractive offer and the positive relationship with them so far,
“These are all reasons why I felt McLaren would be best for the future.”
Indeed it has appeared that Alpine has really not played their hand well at all in the whole affair. The CRB conclusions revealed several instances of zero clarity in the contract position on offer for Piastri by the teams’ legal department who has since stated that the problems moving forward with the Australian and his manager Mark Webber were “due to a lack of legal resources at the team.”
Alpine’s Director of Legal Affairs Benedicte Mercer tried to placate Webber when she wrote to Webber in February 2022 stating that she felt like:
“I am in the spin cycle of a washing machine” and that “things should ease off after the launch – which means I can pick things up right where I left off on Oscar’s contract.”
By March 2022, days before the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Piastri did not have a contract with Alpine – either for his 2022 reserve driver duties or a race seat.
The reserve driver draft was sent to the Piastri camp on March 4th, with Alpine hopeful of sending the F1 race seat contract the week after.
So next season, Oscar Piastri will occupy McLaren’s second seat alongside Lando Norris. But he could just as easily have ended up with another British team.
Williams F1 CEO Jost Capito admitted that Oscar Piastri was one of the options being considered for 2023: “We talked to a few drivers for 2023, so we had some options. And of course Oscar could have been one of them,
Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine’s team manager, even confirmed the contacts with Williams:
“We had discussions. And as Jost said, we really considered them but it never materialised. So it’s hard to know if it would have gone through for certain, but there were certainly discussions.”
At Williams, Nicholas Latifi is in serious danger for next season. Alpine, meanwhile, is still looking for a successor to Fernando Alonso, who has left for Aston Martin to replace Sebastian Vettel.