Alpine F1 has finally reacted to Oscar Piastri’s refusal to race for it in 2023, which no doubt means the Australian has made a firm bet on another team, McLaren F1 in this case.
Until now, only one spokesman had reacted indicating that the team considered it to be within its rights regarding Piastri’s permanence.
Otmar Szafnauer, director of Alpine F1, finally entrusted this matter to El Confidencial at length, returning in the first place to Fernando Alonso’s surprise announcement of joining a competition team without informing his bosses.
“It was the first time I experienced something like this, that’s for sure. Although it doesn’t surprise me at all, because I experienced other situations and stories from both sides, from the drivers’ side and from the teams’ side. But, in my case, I had never experienced anything like this.”
“The ‘Piranha Club’ in action? I think that is capitalism at its best. Nothing is certain until he signs… We had many conversations with Fernando, we wanted him to stay, obviously he also had his thing with Aston Martin… So it was the details of the contract that they were putting on the table that interested him more than some of the details that he had to discuss with us.
Entrance to Alonso for integrity
Szafnauer has no hesitation in lashing out at Alonso about respecting commitments, even verbally, as the two men argued. Did he feel betrayed or disappointed on Monday morning, at 10 am, at the time of the public announcement?
“As I said before, a bit of both. I can’t be naive enough not to know the rules of the game in Formula 1, I’ve been through a lot of stories. But personally I think I’m a man of integrity and if I commit to something I will do my best to make it happen.”
“I keep my word, it’s the way I grew up, what my father passed on to me. I did it with Sebastian Vettel, with Julian Jacobi -who directed Ayrton Senna and now Sergio Pérez-, with Anthony Hamilton when he represented Paul di Resta… But hey, I understood that not everyone does things the same way.”
“Alonso told me on Sunday night that he was going to a Greek island on a boat, I think he mentioned it, but not for me to accompany him. I called him several times in the morning and I couldn’t get through to him. That’s what He said that it would be difficult to locate him, that’s why he said that. Regarding what Piastri said, once we found out about Fernando with Aston Martin, as we were working with him for the next year and we saw that Alonso’s continuity was not possible, we took out the press release.”
“We have a contract with Piastri”
Alpine F1 had three excellent drivers on July 31, two more on August 1, including one who wants to leave. But Szafnauer still hopes to get Piastri next year, though that will have to be worked out in front of lawyers.
“It is not final yet. We have a contract with Piastri, which he signed in November, we talked to our lawyers and they told us that it’s a binding contract, so part of this contract allows us to put Oscar in one of our cars in 2023, which is why we issued the press release.”
“There is also an option for 2024 and the possibility that we can ‘loan’ the driver to another team. We wanted Fernando with us one more year and then an Oscar loan for 2023. I always said it in all my press conferences, that Piastri would be in Formula 1 in 2023 and that’s because he knew he could be in our car or in another car, on loan, if Fernando had stayed.
“But Alonso, for some reason – and I think I know the reasons, although you should ask him – he’s going to Aston Martin. So we started closing the deal with Piastri, and instead of lending him, we decided to put him on.” in our car. Hence the statement.”
Szafnauer ‘doesn’t understand’ Piastri
But Oscar Piastri said he didn’t want to race with Alpine. Why would he look for another team than the one that paid for his entire sports career until Formula 1?
“I think it’s a question for Piastri, because I don’t understand it either. I’m relatively new to the team. The direction we have from Luca de Meo is magnificent, the support he gives us is fantastic, Laurent saved the team.” Rossi, my immediate boss and CEO of Alpine, is a great deal maker for the brand, including the Formula 1 team… Everything is wonderful and we share it with the drivers.”
“Luca de Meo has a great vision, he has resurrected the brand. The cars and their profits finance the team, which is a great marketing tool for the brand. The strategic plan is very good and Piastri knows it. Even better than McLaren. We are ahead of them in the championship and we hope to be ahead of them at the end.”
“The future of the team? We have a big budget and people with a lot of experience. I just arrived, I know the areas to strengthen, the technical team, we are recruiting people in the areas we need to improve and we are implementing new tools.”
“In our future, in this 100-race plan that we are all working on, I think there is room for Piastri as well. And we support him. There should be some loyalty to the fact that we have literally invested millions and millions of euros.” to prepare it. So I don’t understand either, you should ask him.”
Alpine wanted to raise Alonso’s salary
Szafnauer says he knows the reasons for Alonso’s departure. According to him, it is indeed the problem of the duration of the contract, and the Hungarian explains why he was not sure whether to extend the Spaniard for two years for reasons related to age.
“You would have to ask him, but for Alonso a long-term commitment to the team was very important. A two-year contract, even if it was one more. I think one of the keys for Fernando was the extension of the contract. contract. He races at a very high level and I told him that if he continues at this level, next year we will surely continue, we would be crazy not to do it.
“But, like everyone else in life, there comes a time when age affects your psychological abilities, your eyes, your brain, your muscles, your nervous system… They decline. Schumacher, at 42, “has been beaten by Rosberg.” 38, that wouldn’t have happened. And it happens to all of us, footballers, pool players, cricketers: I live in England, when I lived in America I didn’t know anything about the sport. Cricket is not a sport very physical. sport.”
“The main thing is how you judge the trajectory of the ball, how it bounces, how you move the bat a few centimeters… And, at a certain age, the players are still good, but they can’t do like when they were younger. That’s why we thought that with Fernando it was a year, plus a year, plus a year. But he wanted guarantees of more time”.
There have also been rumors of disagreements over Alonso’s salary, but Szafnauer says Alpine did the best it could: “I don’t know how much they are going to pay him at Aston Martin, I really don’t know. What I do know is that we offered him more money than we are paying him now, which is logical.” .”
“It is a figure that at first he tried to negotiate, like everyone else, but in the end we reached an agreement, formally. But I don’t know, I’ve heard rumors that they would have made a very high offer. I don’t know if that was a deciding factor, ask him.”
“All the drivers knew what was going on”
Everything looks like a big mess from the outside: a relaunched Alpine/Renault project, with their two-time world champion at the time and everything flies away…including the promising potential replacement, which the team is betting on in the long run.
“I didn’t expect it. When Piastri, for example, signed the contract with Alpine in November, he was there and didn’t know anything. I always saw that Laurent Rossi was trying to do what was best for the two drivers. With the contracts, with Fernando , who wanted to continue, with Óscar, who wanted a seat in 2023… and Rossi gave his agreement, Laurent worked very hard to find him that seat for next year.”
“At Alpine we were trying to do what was best for both drivers, not trying to play games with either of them, being transparent with them. All the drivers knew what was going on. Unfortunately, Alonso signed with Aston Martin and I understand why. But with Piastri, no.”
Szafnauer expected ‘more loyalty’ from Piastri
Wasn’t there a bit of ingenuity and collusion between Alonso, Piastri, Mark Webber and Flavio Briatore, linked and close people?
“Are you saying they may have shared information with each other? Look, I have no record of that, but this is Formula 1 and maybe in a few years someone will say they have evidence of information sharing, I wouldn’t be surprised.” 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 the whole world knows. And that’s how I ran my boat in Formula 1 for 25 years. And if the sharing of information happens, they shouldn’t be surprised.”
“However, I expected more loyalty from Piastri. He should have it with this team that took care of him, that took him here and, above all, that in the last year put a Formula 1 so that he was ready, like this.” that he knew the circuits. He expected more fidelity from Oscar than he showed. I started in 1989 in Formula 1 and I had never seen anything like it.
“And it’s not about Formula 1, it’s about integrity as a human being. It could happen in ice hockey or football, whatever. But it’s not F1. He signed a paper, a document, saying that I would do something different. For me, if you say ‘help me, I’ll help you tomorrow’, in no case do you break your word. Of course not”.
Many pilots show their interest.
Without Piastri, without Alonso… What will be the future of Alpine? Everything indicates that Daniel Ricciardo could return to the team, two years after leaving it. Szafnauer is still counting on Piastri but knows he has to prepare for his absence. The good news is that there is no shortage of potential candidates.
“Alonso goes chez Aston Martin. Nous avions un contrat avec Piastri et nous devons comerdre où cela nous mène légalement. Nous croyons, et c’est pourquoi nous avons publié cette déclaration, que nous avons un contrat contraignant. Passons un peu de temps à étudier où cela nous mène. Et si Piastri n’est pas dans la voiture – et je pense qu’il sera – sera que Fernando est parti, j’ai environ quatorze telephoniques appels de piles intéressés, car le baquet Alpine est le meilleur remaining.”
“No wonder so many people call me, but of those fourteen, four will remain on the final list. And among them is Piastri.”
And if Piastri leaves, will Alpine F1 turn on the driver? Economic compensation for everything that has been invested over the years?
“First of all, let’s see where we are legally with Oscar. We have a contract that says that we must support him in his career until Formula 1 by investing a lot of money. But above all, we must bear in mind that the “Last year we put on the track a single-seater and has done 3,500 kilometers. We have done seven independent tests with it and it is not cheap. The cost of an engine alone is 1,750,000. The mechanics, the team that manages these tests, the flights and the trips… We spend a lot, a lot of money in Piastri to prepare it for the future and, if that future is not with us, it is logical and fair that we seek compensation”.
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