Otmar Szafnauer has stated that he "expected more loyalty" from Oscar Piastri after the driver denied agreeing to race for Alpine next season.
Following the news that Fernando Alonso will move to Aston Martin in 2023, Alpine put out a statement announcing Piastri as partnering Esteban Ocon for the next campaign. There were no quotes from Piastri in the announcement.
Shortly afterwards, Piastri – who is currently the outfit's reserve driver – refuted the claims that he will be racing for the Enstone team in 2023.
Piastri was known to be admired by other teams. He was previously linked with a loan move to Williams and had been linked with McLaren in recent days.
RacingNews365.com has since learned that Piastri has agreed a deal to race for McLaren in 2023 in place of Daniel Ricciardo.
FIA's contract recognition board, where all F1 contracts are ratified, is said to have validated Piastri's new contract with McLaren at the expense of his existing deal with Alpine.
Furthermore, RacingNews365.com understands that Piastri has a contract with Alpine for 2022, but not for 2023. His 2022 deal is said to contain an option on Piastri's services for 2023, but that option was not exercised within the required 30 days of signing that contract.
Szafnauer explains Alpine statement
Speaking to Spanish outlet El Confidencial, Szafnauer admitted that the outcome of the situation "still has to be decided".
"We have a contract with Piastri, which he signed in November, we have spoken to our lawyers and they have told us that this is a binding contract, so part of that contract allows us to put Oscar in one of our cars in 2023, which is the reason we issued the press release," Szafnauer claimed.
"There is also an option for 2024 and the possibility for us to 'loan' the driver to another team. We wanted Fernando with us for one more year and then a 'loan' of Oscar for 2023.
"I have always said in all my press conferences that Piastri would be in Formula 1 in 2023 and it is because I knew he could be in our car or in another car, on loan, if Fernando had stayed.
"But Alonso, for whatever reason – and I think I know the reasons, although you should ask him – he goes to Aston Martin. So, we started to finalise the agreement with Piastri, and instead of giving him away, we decided to put him in our car. Hence, the statement."
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Szafnauer "doesn't understand" Piastri not wanting to race for Alpine
When asked why Piastri would look to race for another team, rather than stay with Alpine who have supported his junior career, Szafnauer responded: "I think it's a question for Piastri, because I don't understand it either."
Referring to the team's "very good" strategic plan, the team boss added: "In our future, in that hundred-race plan we are all working on, I think there is also room for Piastri. And we have supported him.
"There should be some loyalty to the fact that we have invested literally millions and millions of euros to prepare him. So I don't understand it either, you should ask him."
"I've never seen anything like this"
Piastri has come in for criticism from Szafnauer over what the Team Principal deems to be a lack of loyalty.
"I expected more loyalty from Piastri," Szafnauer commented.
"He should have it with that team that has taken care of him, that has taken him to the World Championship and, above all, that during the last year has put him in a Formula 1 car so that he would be ready, so that he would know the circuits.
"I expected more loyalty from Oscar than he is showing. I started in 1989 in Formula 1 and I've never seen anything like this. And it's not about Formula 1, it's about integrity as a human being.
"It could happen in ice hockey or soccer, it doesn't matter. But you don't do that. He signed a piece of paper, a document, saying he would do something different.
"For me, the way I grew up, I don't need to sign a piece of paper and then have someone say, 'You're lying, because you signed this.' For me, if you say, 'Hey, help me, I'll help you tomorrow,' there's no way I would go back on my word. No way.
"You did everything I asked you to do (from Alpine to Piastri) and now I promise you that if you do this, I will do this. I don't need a piece of paper where it says, 'With a clause, I can get out of here'.
Plenty of interest in Alpine seat, says Szafnauer
Amidst the dramatic turn of events over Piastri's situation, Szafnauer is not worried about filling the second seat at Alpine should the Australian not be racing for the team.
"If Piastri is not in the car – which I think he is going to be – because Fernando is out, I have about 14 phone calls from drivers who are interested, because the Alpine seat is the most valuable seat left," Szafnauer commented.
The team boss has also not ruled out the possibility of seeking financial compensation if Piastri leaves the squad.
"We have to take into account that last year we put him in a single-seater and he did 3,500 kilometres," Szafnauer added.
"We have done seven independent tests with him and this is not cheap at all. The cost of an engine alone is 1,750,000 euros. The mechanics, the team that managed those tests, the flights and travel...
"We have spent lots and lots of money on Piastri to prepare him for the future. And, if that future is not with us, it is logical and fair that we seek compensation."
RacingNews365.com understands from sources that Alpine intend filing a challenge with the contract recognition board potentially as early as Monday.
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