Oscar Piastri says he left Alpine due to a breakdown in trust and was then subjected to “upsetting” scenarios where the team tried to force his hand despite knowing he was leaving for McLaren.
The FIA’s Contract Recognition Board (CRB) announced on Friday that Piastri only had a valid contract with McLaren and not with Alpine from 2023 onwards, with McLaren immediately confirming him as its race driver. Piastri has now spoken publicly for the first time since he was caught in the middle of a tug-of-war, telling the official Formula 1 website that he had long-since informed Alpine he was leaving before Fernando Alonso’s departure.
“The CRB ruling has confirmed I didn’t have a contract for the 2023 season (with Alpine),” Piastri said. “I was free to choose my destiny — and I felt McLaren was a great opportunity. They were very straightforward and very keen and enthusiastic to have me. To be completely honest, there was a lack of clarity around my future at the team at Alpine.
“They publicly stated they wished to continue with Fernando for at least one or two more years. I respect that. But after spending the year out my hopes were firmly set on an Alpine seat and the lack of clarity and similarly to Fernando, a bit of a strange feeling in negotiations, it didn’t feel like it was the right decision for me (to stay around).
“(With) the lack of clarity around my future, and ultimately a breakdown in trust, I felt the very attractive offer of McLaren and the positive dealings with them thus far were all reasons why I felt McLaren was where I was best off for the future.”
Piastri said his relations with Alpine deteriorated from there, as he was subjected to some “upsetting” situations as Alpine tried to claim ownership of him despite not having a contract and knowing of his move. He highlighted the time team principal Otmar Szafnauer came into the simulator to inform him he had a race seat after Alonso left.
“My decision was made well in advance (of Alonso’s departure), which made Alpine’s announcement probably even more confusing and upsetting because we had told the team that I wasn’t going to continue. It was quite upsetting as the announcement was false and it also denied me the opportunity to properly say goodbye to everyone at Enstone.
“I had been with team for a bit over two and a half years and for the rest of the team to find out I was leaving in that manner was very upsetting. I still haven’t had the opportunity to say goodbye and it’s something I want to do to show my gratitude to all the men and women at Enstone.”
Sfaznauer said Piastri “smiled and was thankful” when informed he would be racing for Alpine in 2023, but the Australian has less-fond memories of the situation he was put in.
“That was a bizarre and frankly upsetting episode. It was done publicly in front of some members of the team who were oblivious to the situation and I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of them. Once we were in private, I told Otmar what our position was and what he had been told multiple times before that. It was very surprising to me to make that announcement.”
Despite those recollections, Piastri says he’s grateful for the support Alpine gave him in his junior career, although suggests he could leave his role as reserve early if the team wishes.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time with Alpine. I joined the Academy off the back of winning the Formula Renault championship in 2019 as part of the prize for winning the championship and enjoyed two incredibly successful years as part of the Academy with two further championships, so I have nothing but respect for all the team at Enstone.
“It was a good testing program that we came up with Alpine this year, in place of not having a seat for this year. It’s put me in good stead and I’m very thankful for Alpine for the testing we have done this year, but McLaren is a different team, a different car and the 2022 cars in general are quite different beasts, so we’ll see how much of that carries over.
“I will look back on my time at Enstone with great memories but I’m now focusing on my future and starting my F1 career.
“I’m glad that I finally got announced as a McLaren driver for next year and we are now looking forward to the future ahead … I’m still reserve with Alpine and I’m happy to carry out those duties still, but it’s a discussion that we need to have between myself and the team. We’ll see how that looks and then obviously super excited to be joining the grid with McLaren next season.”