F1’s Contract Recognition Board announced on Friday that Piastri’s only valid contract for 2023 was with McLaren, ending a dispute with Alpine, which claimed to have struck a deal for him to replace Fernando Alonso.
Piastri opened up about the saga in an interview with F1 published on Saturday, revealing that Alpine’s way of handling things was “disturbing” and “bizarre”.
Asked by Autosport about Alpine’s loyalty to Piastri during Saturday’s FIA press conference, Szafnauer pointed to the “heads of terms” agreement – a non-legally binding document – signed late last year.
“We delivered everything beyond what we said we were going to do, including 3,500km on last year’s car, making him our reserve driver when McLaren and Mercedes asked if we could share him as a reserve as they didn’t have one. ‘ said Szafnauer.
“We made him do that. We paid him. That’s our loyalty to Oscar.”
Szafnauer questioned Piastri’s integrity last week, while the reigning F2 champion has also been criticized for his role in the case and his public statement denying he would drive for Alpine – despite having previously informed the team privately.
Szafnauer did not retract his comment about Piastri when given the chance on Saturday, saying that Alpine “performed on a contract that we thought we had above and beyond.”
Oscar Piastri, Reserve Driver, Alpine F1 Team
Photo By: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
“All we asked for in that contract from Oscar was to become a driver for Alpine or to be placed elsewhere for 2023 and 2024,” said Szafnauer. “And he didn’t.”
The entire saga has left Alpine without a driver to assemble Esteban Ocon for 2023. The team would pursue Pierre Gasly but would have to strike a deal with Red Bull to release him from his current AlphaTauri contract.
But Szafnauer didn’t think the case would be a bad reflection of Alpine’s image, believing it to be “based on what happens on the track and how we perform.”
“We will do our best not only for this year, but we will continue to improve the team,” said Szafnauer.
“We’re recruiting, we’re spending money on tools, we understand what it takes to compete in the top three. That is our goal, with the aim to win a world championship in five years.
“We have to put the principles in place for that to happen, and we are working to do that. The best thing for Alpine’s image is to win on the track, and we will try to do that.”
Comments from both Piastri and Alonso point to difficulties during the negotiations with Alpine. Alonso said there was always a “strange feeling” for him in conversations that eventually stalled, paving the way for his shock switch to Aston Martin.
Szafnauer noted that the November deal with Piastri predated his arrival at Alpine for this summer, saying that while it would be “easy to blame people who aren’t around anymore”, it’s “not my style” .
He said: “The right thing is to look at what happened, understand where the shortcomings were and fix them for the future.”