Szafnauer dismisses Piastri’s claim Alpine’s handling of 2023 deal was “bizarre”

2022 Dutch Grand Prix

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Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer says Oscar Piastri was properly informed of the team’s decision to promote him to Formula 1 in 2023, after the driver related a “bizarre” meeting between the pair of them.

Piastri maintains he told the team more than once he would not drive for them next year before Szafnauer made his move to promote the reserve driver to their race team in 2023.

“That was a bizarre and frankly upsetting episode,” said Piastri. “It was done publicly in front of some members of the team who were oblivious to the situation and I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of them.

Szafnauer said Piastri was informed the team were preparing to announce him as their new driver for 2023. “I informed him that the press release was going out and I congratulated him on being an Alpine driver,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “He smiled and said ‘thank you’ and offered nothing else.

Speaking during today’s FIA press conference, Szafnauer gave his account of how the meeting took place: “Oscar was in the simulator, when he finished his simulator session I went and told him of the release and to congratulate him and he smiled and said ‘thank you’.

“Were there a group of people there? I can tell you no, it was myself [and] the simulator technician, who happened to be in the same room. But if you’ve ever seen a simulator, it’s a pretty big room, as big as it is here.

“There were three of us in that room. So it wasn’t a group of people. It wasn’t bizarre. And he smiled and said ‘thank you’.”

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Despite Piastri’s claim he had told Alpine he intended to go elsewhere, Szafnauer said the team remained under the impression their existing deal with Piastri ensured they could promote him to a race seat in 2023. “At that point we were having discussions with Oscar,” he explained. “We were under the impression that the contractual arrangements we had with Oscar were were valid.”

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The Contract Recognition Board ruled yesterday McLaren has a valid deal with Piastri for 2023. Before their decision Szafnauer thought Alpine had a “fifty-fifty” chance of success.

“The Germans have a really nice saying that if you’re on the high seas or in front of a judge, you’re in God’s hands. Meaning you can’t really predict the outcome and you can’t predict the outcome on the high seas. So that’s the analogy.

“But I said at the time, even if there is a loophole or something that goes against us, we performed on a contract that we thought we had above and beyond. And the one thing we asked of Oscar in that contract is to be a driver for Alpine or to be placed somewhere else for ’23 and ’24 and that he didn’t do.”

The team believes its “heads of terms” agreement, reached in November last year, ensured he would remain with them in 2023 providing they abided by their commitments to him.

“We delivered everything above and beyond what we said we were going to do, including 3,500 kilometres in last year’s car, making him our reserve driver. When McLaren and Mercedes asked if we could share him as a reserve because they didn’t have one, we allowed them to do that. We paid him. That’s our loyalty to Oscar.”

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Szafnauer joined Alpine in February this year. However he refused to apportion any blame to his predecessors at the team for the nature of the deal struck with Piastri.

“All this happened in November of last year. So I guess it’s easy to blame people that aren’t here anymore, but that’s not my style. The right thing to do is to have a look at what happened, understand where the shortcomings were, and fix them for the future.”

Luca de Meo, CEO of Alpine owners Renault, and Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi were not responsible for handling the drivers’ contracts, Szafnauer noted.

“Luca does not do day-to-day stuff at the team. Nowhere near, he sets the big picture objectives in the goals and provides the resource that we need to be able to achieve those goals, that’s his role.

“Laurent looks after mainly the Alpine brand that we’re building and we’re doing a good job with. I think we have more demand for cars than we have production capacity.”

“My role is here with the team, the day-to-day stuff, including negotiating contracts with drivers,” Szafnauer added. “I will do that to the best of my ability in the future. I’ve done it for 25 years already and I can assure you this kind of thing, once we have a retrospective look, will be fixed.”

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2022 Dutch Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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15 comments on “Szafnauer dismisses Piastri’s claim Alpine’s handling of 2023 deal was “bizarre””

  1. Otmar, you lost so you have zero footing here, stop playing dumb.

    Also, this narrative makes no sense, why was there no quote from Oscar in the announcement, if he was so okay with it when you told him he would drive for you despite not signing a single piece of paper saying so.

  2. Otmar and Mattia probably need to spend less time in the back of the garage inhaling exhaust fumes. They both appear to be suffering severe delusions.

  3. I think it is possible that Szafnauer’s account of the simulator meeting is correct, but that doesn’t change the big picture. It makes sense that a driver would respond cautiously to such a sudden announcement and check their management on how to proceed before saying anything else. The driver’s response is meaningless until there is a binding contract between the parties.

    The fact that Alpine announced Piastri as their driver for next year based on a smile and “thank you” sounds very amateurish to me.

  4. I can’t see how Piastri will remain an Alpine employee after this weekend, the acrimony and distrust between both parties will make it too difficult to continue productively.

    1. @chimaera2003 I was getting the impression he’d left – or least was on ‘gardening leave’. Could be wrong though.

      1. @bernasaurus I heard he was doing sim work for the team this weekend back at the factory so still doing work that the team at the track will rely on.

        Can see a negotiated termination and Piastri being in the centre of a media scrum in the McLaren garage next weekm

        1. @chimaera2003 Yeah, surely it’s not a good idea to have him around the factory. It’s not like they don’t have others who can do sim work.

          Or dare I say – it’s a contractual thing? :-)

  5. I don’t know much about Piastri, but this Szafnauer never seemed trustworthy and honest to me. Not as sly as Horner or Wolff, more of a clumsy liar that couldn’t fool any lie detector or even an untrained human eye. Beautiful characters we have in F1, but I guess that’s what people actually like anyway. Gives us something to talk about…

  6. Otmar should have known exactly what was in Oscar’s contact, where the loopholes were and then to (not) say that “staff no longer with us” are responsible for this mess and that legal decisions are in God’s hand…. He’s blown every ounce of credibility he had. I can’t see how he can remain at Alpine after this. This incident has shown he is a huge liability.

    I’m absolutely dumbfounded by these comments.

  7. Otmar thinks every else is a moron. He states that they were going to give Oscar a 2023 seat but Ocon has a seat and they were trying to re-sign Alonso. So what seat would have been available for Oscar??? Was Alpine looking to send Ocon packing like McLaren sent Ricciardo packing? That is the only way Otmar’s statements are true. Ocon is persona non grata at Alpine. He needs to watch his back.

  8. Otmar thinks every else is not as brilliant as he is. He states that they were going to give Oscar a 2023 seat but Ocon has a seat and they were trying to re-sign Alonso. So what seat would have been available for Oscar??? Was Alpine looking to send Ocon packing like McLaren sent Ricciardo packing? That is the only way Otmar’s statements are true. Ocon is persona non grata at Alpine. He needs to watch his back.

  9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    3rd September 2022, 15:00

    I think signing a 3 year contract with Ocon was the dumbest thing they could have done because it clearly infuriated Alonso that they wanted to give him a 1 year contract and Piastri was certain that they weren’t going to bump Alonso for him.

    In the end, they lost both drivers – whoever signs will also need a 3 year contract to match Ocon’s.

    It’s a real shame Horner can’t reply to Abiteboul and say

    “Hey Cyril, it looks like you need 2 drivers, doesn’t it?” :-)

    Drive to Survive should do that scene bringing Horner and Abiteboul together just for kicks :-)

  10. There are so many red flags in this story. First, nothing Otmar says addresses that Oscar said he told them multiple times he wouldn’t drive for them in 2023. Second, why would Alpine draft a press release without getting quotes from Oscar? Third, Otmar didn’t think it was bizarre that when he told Oscar he had just been selected for a seat in the most prestigious racing series in the world his only response was Thank you? He wasn’t asking more questions? He didn’t let out a shout for joy? There wasn’t a picture to capture the moment? That seems super bizarre to me. Fourth, if you have an actual contract you don’t need to rely on God because the contract spells out what the terms of the agreement are in legally enforceable language. This all just seems like desperate attempts to try to cover up how poorly they managed this entire situation with excuses that just don’t ring true.

  11. Racing point was done on photographs, Lawrence Stroll was too bossy, alonso is not leaving and Piastri is driving for alpine in 23.

  12. With the CRB documents out.
    Its not only clear Alpine lied every step of the way, they even committed fraud by making changes to a signed document.

    You’d expect the FIA, CRB or CAS to further investigate that.

    No wonder, everyone runs away from Alpine.

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