Alpine Formula 1 team boss Otmar Szafnauer says he wishes his reserve driver Oscar Piastri had “a bit more integrity” amid an ongoing dispute over the Formula 2 champion’s future.
Earlier this month Alpine was stunned by the news that Fernando Alonso would leave the team at the end of 2022 to join rival Aston Martin.
Alpine was then dealt a further blow when it realised Piastri and his management were being evasive as the team lined him up as Alonso’s replacement.
In a bid to take control of the situation, Alpine unilaterally announced Piastri as a 2023 F1 driver – something he publicly refuted one hour later, stating he would not drive for the team.
It subsequently emerged that Piastri had agreed a deal with McLaren to move there in place of Daniel Ricciardo, who this week confirmed he had reached a settlement to leave McLaren one year before the end of his contract.
Piastri’s camp contends there was no binding F1 contract in place for 2023 and that they were free to negotiate with other teams.
Alpine has been left shocked and angered by these events, as it felt it had a valid contract for 2023 and was trying to place Piastri on loan at Williams before the Alonso bombshell.
Szafnauer has made it clear that Alpine felt Piastri should have shown the organisation more loyalty rather than try to find a way to move somewhere else.
Ending a period of silence over the summer break, he told Sky Sports F1 at the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday: “He’s a promising young driver, hasn’t driven in F1 yet.
“My wish for Oscar was that he had a bit more integrity.
“He signed a piece of paper back in November and we’ve done on everything on our end of the bargain to prepare him for F1.
“His end of the bargain was to either drive for us or take a seat where we would place him for the next three years.
“I just wish Oscar would remember what he signed in November.”
Alpine clearly feels a deep sense of betrayal by a driver who has been part of its Academy since 2020.
It has been claimed that whatever Piastri signed was with the Academy and only made reference to a future agreement with the F1 team.
But this was not a specific F1 contract and the suggestion is it may not even have contained an option that would bind Piastri to Alpine in any circumstance.
That may have left the door open for Piastri to sign a specific F1 contract with McLaren that has been accepted by the Contract Recognition Board.
This body will meet next week to consider Alpine’s alleged contract in full and make a ruling on whether Piastri can drive for McLaren or would only be granted a superlicence if driving for Alpine.
Until then, Piastri’s situation remains unclear. McLaren has not confirmed him and refuses to publicly address the prospect of him joining the team.
Though the release of Ricciardo, at great expense given he had a third year on his high-paying contract, indicates significant confidence on McLaren’s side but nothing more than that.
Should the CRB side with McLaren, Alpine is unlikely to let the case drop. It will probably seek compensation through the UK’s High Court, to reclaim the investment it has put into Piastri’s career across his 2021 Formula 2 season with Prema, simulator time, and extensive F1 testing with Alpine.
Piastri has conducted around 3500km of testing so far, mainly in a 2021 Alpine, ahead of his anticipated F1 debut next season.
Alpine believes it should be reimbursed for that development work given it stuck to its commitments to Piastri and he is attempting to leave after taking advantage of that.