The McLaren team boss started single seater wars on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean during 2022. Firstly Zak Brown tried to prise the 2021 IndyCar champion, Alex Palou, away from the Chip Ganassi team to his Arrow McLaren Racing outfit. On the European side of the Atlantic Brown and McLaren stunned Alpine F1 as they signed their junior driver behind the French team management’s back.
Despite Alpine calling foul and taking the matter to the FIA contract recognition board (CRB) in an attempt to force Piastri to stay, the board ruled the young Australian driver was free to leave his mentor team and sign for a full time 2023 drive with McLaren.
Alpine lose driver to McLaren
Since losing the case, Alpine have signed Red Bull portage and race winner Pierre Gasly. Now team boss Otmar Szafnauer thinks the fallout surrounding the Piastri saga may yet inadvertently have put Alpine in a stronger position next season.
“The thinking that Oscar had a contract with us after the Contract Recognition Board saying something different was… it was a process we had to go through, we had to go through to the CRB and get resolutions,” he said.
“You know, that’s life, that’s why you have bodies that judge and two sides think differently. So we had to go through that.
“And, look, let’s see how we do next year. I’m happy that our driver pairing with Esteban and Pierre is better than it would have been if we would have won that case.
Brown fight in America rather different
Zak Brown may have won his F1 battle with Alpine, but on the American side of the pond it was a different matter. The dispute began when Chip Ganassi put out a press release on July 13th stating they would be retaining Palou for the 2023 season. Then all hell broke lose.
Palou took to twitter denying Ganassi’s claims stating he had instead signed for Arrow McLaren. Within 2 weeks of this event Alpine F1 made the same assertion about Piastri and he too took to twitter in a remarkably similar fashion denying the team’s press release.
Yet Ganassi clearly had his ducks in better order than the legal executive at Alpine who has now been sacked.
Ganassi Racing took Palou to court claiming a breach of contract as their option for 2023 was valid. While he exact details of the court hearings were never revealed, a settlement was reached which saw Alex Palou agree he would be racing with Chip Ganassi and not leaving for Arrow McLaren.
I’m excited to announce that @CGRTeams and I have come to an agreement and I’ll be back in the No. 10 car next season!
Looking forward to a BIG 2023! 🦍 pic.twitter.com/wIhaPdYj9q
— Alex Palou Montalbo (@AlexPalou) September 14, 2022
McLaren snub Ganassi with statement today
Today Zak Brown and McLaren have released a statement which clearly snubs Chip Ganassi and his contractual win.
McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl, in a statement stated:
“The team are pleased to have Alex on board as one of our reserve drivers for next season. He impressed with his FP1 session in Austin and his Driver Development tests this year.
He has many notable motorsports achievements so far, particularly the 2021 INDYCAR championship title so it’s brilliant to be able to expand his role in the team and we look forward to working more closely with him.”
Alex Palou was also quoted in the press release:
“I’m excited to be part of the McLaren team as one of their reserve drivers in 2023. I’ve been behind the wheel of both the MCL35M and MCL36 and it has been a great experience, so I can’t wait for the involvement with next year’s car.
I look forward to continuing my development as a driver and I appreciate the trust McLaren have in me with this new role next year.”
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 1, 2022