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Opinion: How Alpine lost Piastri

After learning that Oscar Piastri is set to replace Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren in 2023, RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken explains how Alpine lost two drivers in 24 hours.

Before analysing how Alpine found itself in this state, allow me to stress that the information learned by RacingNews365.com concerning Piastri's move to McLaren was derived not from a single source, but three different parties - on two continents, in three countries – all with knowledge of the information. Crucially, all provided essentially the same details. However, we have omitted items such as timelines for fear that these could jeopardise certain insiders in England and Australia. All I will say in this regard is: there is considerable dissent in the team's ranks, with some choice language peppering the details. Saliently, all pointed to a two- plus one-year deal. Three burning questions surround the loss of not one but two star drivers within a space of 24 hours – both to lower ranking teams: Why did Alpine not urgently secure its offer to Fernando Alonso once it knew Sebastian Vettel's seat was vacant? Forget not that Alonso is a driver who (twice) previously left Team Enstone under a cloud; a driver at the heart of every major F1 scandal this millennium; a driver who repeatedly left chaos in his wake; a driver managed by Flavio Briatore, whose reputation precedes him after he quit his role as boss of the same team in the wake of cheating allegations - yet Alpine went about re-signing him with an air of utter casualness. Then: That McLaren was talking to Piastri was an open paddock secret; that he is advised by Mark Webber – who won Le Mans with a Porsche team overseen by current McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl, and learned the tricks of driver management from Briatore – equally so. Yet neither alarms nor even muted bells appear to have pealed in Enstone or Viry-Châtillon, Alpine's Parisian base. Talk about sleepwalking… Finally: what on earth possessed Alpine to issue a media release announcing an alleged driver contract without a single quote from the subject? Not a word; not only was that a sure giveaway that Alpine had lost control over its third driver, but smacked of egoistic desperation to salvage management 'face'.

Alpine's hubris coming back to bite the team?

Our information has it that McLaren's contract with Piastri was signed last Saturday during the Hungarian Grand Prix, ahead of a mooted (by others) deadline of July 31, 2022, then immediately lodged with the CRB, which accepted the agreement as is standard procedure unless conflicts exist. Our sources are adamant that no 2023 Alpine-Piastri contract was in place, only a vague (and expired) option clause in his 2022 deal. Significantly, Alpine was not informed of said acceptance, simply because there were no conflicts. Australian sources are equally adamant that Daniel Ricciardo has been informed of his de-hiring, and that a soft landing is being sought for him. The bottom line is that hubris about what was smugly (and variously) referred to as a “rich man’s problem” or "nice problem to have " has come back to bite the team, leaving a proud French brand - celebrating the 50th anniversary of its halo A110 model's world rally championship successes in 2023 - with a choice of Mick Schumacher or Ricciardo. Last-named shunned the team two years ago and serially underperformed since. From media briefings with carefully selected outlets through vague off-record comments by junior press officers when gravitas was urgently required, to stone-deafness after Piastri's (pointed) social media statements, and clumsy pointers from team management that Alonso was not contactable – leading the Spaniard to post mocking messages - Alpine has (mis?)managed this entire saga in amateurish fashion. When approached by RacingNews365.com in the wake of Piastri's tweet, a team spokesperson stated Alpine was confident about its position and offered no further comment.

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