Alpine announces Oscar Piastri for F1 2023, but doubts remain

Just 24 hours after the Enstone team discovered it had lost Alonso to Aston Martin, it announced that Piastri would be stepping down as reserve driver.

The highly regarded young Australian was more likely to look for a seat elsewhere in 2023, with Alpine originally planning to keep Alonso.

While it had been suggested that he could be loaned to Williams, it is clear that Piastri and his manager Mark Webber were instead trying to strike a deal with McLaren as a replacement for Daniel Ricciardo.

But with Alonso out of the picture and Alpine contracting Piastri’s services to put him in an F1 race seat, the situation has now changed – and his current bosses claim they have him on board for 2023.

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer believes a line-up of Piastri and Ocon in 2023 would put the team on the right path towards its ultimate long-term ambitions to get back to the front of the grid.

“Oscar is a brilliant and rare talent,” he said. “We are proud to have nurtured and supported him through the difficult paths of the junior formulas. Through our collaboration over the past four years, we have seen him develop and mature into a driver who can more than make up for the step to Formula 1.

“As our reserve driver, he has been exposed to the team on the track, in the factory and during testing where he has shown the maturity, promise and speed to ensure his promotion to our second seat alongside Esteban.

“Together, we believe the duo will give us the continuity we need to achieve our long-term goal of challenging for wins and championships.”

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Interestingly, the Alpine release announcing Piastri’s move did not include a quote from the Australian himself – further fueling theories that the matter may not be as settled as it seems.

Earlier in the day, Szafnauer had explained that the team had not immediately struck a deal with Piastri because things were not quite settled.

“So Oscar and his camp are considering their options, whatever that means,” Szafnauer said.

Szafnauer went on to say that the contractual arrangements his team had made with Piastri meant there was no doubt they could call him up for next year.

“What I do know is that he has contractual obligations to us,” he added. “And that’s what we do with him. And we meet those commitments throughout the year.

And those commitments last until ’23, and possibly ’24, if some options are taken.

“And our obligations to him this year have been to be reserve driver, to put him in last year’s car for a considerable time as well. We are well over halfway through that 5,000km program, which is not unimportant, in last year’s car, preparing for a race next year.

“We also carried out FP1s, simulation work, and those obligations on both sides. So he performed, we performed.

“So that’s why we have a legal contract with him going forward for ’23. And if an option is taken, for ’24. So I don’t know what he did with McLaren. Like I said, I’m not one of them. .”

The nature of the Alpine release – which includes wording regarding deals already closed – could be seen by the team as an attempt by the team to disclose that it has a contractual arrangement on Piastri for 2023. This would act as a firm hands-off warning to other squads trying to contract him, and that they could face a legal battle if they continue to chase him.

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