Oscar Piastri, Alpine, 2022

Alpine management chose “to not continue the fight” to keep Piastri – Szafnauer

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In the round-up: Former Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer says more could have been done to prevent Oscar Piastri leaving them to join McLaren last year.

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In brief

Szafnauer believes Alpine had chance to keep Piastri

Alpine intended to promote Piastri from a reserve driver role to a race seat this year but unbeknown to them he signed a deal to race for McLaren. The FIA’s Contract Recognition Board ruled in McLaren’s favour.

Otmar Szafnauer, who was Alpine’s Formula 1 team principal at the time but dropped by the team earlier this year, thinks more could have been done to hold onto the driver. “There was a CRB test that landed on the side of Oscar and McLaren, but that’s not the only test,” he said in an interview with Peter Windsor.

Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine, 2022
Piastri’s defection to McLaren infuriated Szafnauer
“Had we tested the contract in the English courts, because it was governed by English law, the outcome could have been much different than the CRB. We performed, Oscar didn’t. From a CRB perspective there was an ‘out’. But from an English law perspective, it could have been different. But the decision was made to not continue the fight and just let it be as it is. And that’s okay, that was a decision that I didn’t make. That was a decision that was made for me.”

Szafnauer said he wishes Piastri well and admitted he “performed well” against Lando Norris in his first season at McLaren this year. “I think to me, next year or the year after will be more telling,” Szafnauer continued.

“You’ve got to give Oscar the year of getting used to the team, the circuits with the car that’s underneath him. I think Lando is exceptional, and you can see that in the comparison. Although everyone says Oscar did a good job, because he did, I think Lando was still quite a way ahead. Not all races, but in total points and some of the head-to-head comparisons.”

Pau Grand Prix cancelled for 2024

Pau’s municipal council has announced that the city’s grand prix will not take place in 2024, but there are plans to bring it back the year after with a greater focus on sustainability.

While recognising the race – which was first run in 1933 – “is part of the city’s tradition”, Pau’s mayor Francois Bayrou no longer wants public funding to go into the event and so future edition will have to be privately financed. Such backing looks difficult to find for 2024 due to French firms involving themselves in the Olympic Games in Paris next year, meaning 2025 will mark the likely return of the grand prix.

The race ran for Formula 3 cars from 2011 to 2019, then after two pandemic-enforced cancellations the grand prix returned last year with the F3-level Euroformula series. A new requirement for series to use sustainable fuels ruled Euroformula out of the event in 2023, and the city wants future editions to run for cars not running on fossil fuels.

Juncos expecting improvements with new team manager

Juncos Hollinger Racing co-owner Ricardo Juncos says the appointment of paddock veteran David Morgan as team manager is an important step for the team as it enters its second season as a two-car operation. Morgan takes up a role previously held by Vince Kremer.

Romain Grosjean, 2023
Romain Grosjean will join Juncos for 2024
“We hired a lot of people at the start of 2023 and late ’22, and David was one of those guys and was on the 78 [Agustin Canapino] car,” said Juncos.

“He didn’t have a specific role on anything, really. He was just overseeing everything. But he became a good part of the team with the people from the [workshop] floor. The mechanics, the truck drivers, the loading, unloading, and the great Vince Kremer.”

Morgan was able to “go through what was right and wrong that we did clearly through ’23” by being in a role that enabled him to observe all team activities,” said Juncos.

“He has a clear understanding by going back to kind of the lower level after being a team manager and team owner in his life, and being in racing for many years, that he was a translator to me on things that can be right or better or [was done] wrong,” explained Juncos. “On why it was wrong, or why it should be this way [and so on].”

The appointment had been well received by the team, Juncos added. “The relationship he built with the guys, it was really good. Actually when I named him as a team manager, I saw the faces on the floor and everybody was really happy for him to be the one.”

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Comment of the day

It’s not just Szafnauer who thinks Piastri showed plenty of room for improvement in his debut season. MichaelN queries our decision to place him seventh in our annual driver rankings:

Piastri is the best rookie for some years, but the metrics don’t lie; he was still quite far behind Norris in most cases. He’ll want to get on top of his tyre management skills sooner rather than later, because Pirelli is here to stay.

This ranking is quite generous, and some off the glow of Norris’ inflated reputation gained from beating a hapless Daniel Ricciardo has brushed off on him.

Hopefully McLaren can start the next season strong so we don’t have to constantly take the limitations of the car, or the staggered introduction of updates, into account when weighing his performance

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Ferrox Glideh!

On this day in motorsport

  • Born on this day in 1968: Karl Wendlinger, who was part of Mercedes’ junior sports car team alongside Michael Schumacher, graduated to F1, but was badly injured in a crash at Monaco in 1994


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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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15 comments on “Alpine management chose “to not continue the fight” to keep Piastri – Szafnauer”

  1. I want some of whatever Szafnauer is on to think he ever had a chance in the first place.

    1. I want some of whatever Szafnauer is on to think Ocon is worth losing Alonso and Piastri. Alpine had a chance to have same combination as Mercedes ( HAM + RUS == ALO + PIA ). Now they have Ocon + Gasly.

      1. With Ocon and Gasly I think Alpine have the perfect drivers for their team, mediocre drivers for a mediocre team with mediocre management, a match made in France. So glad Alonso and Piastri got out, both provided good entertainment value in their new teams.

        1. Exactly!!

      2. lol it looks so bad when you put it that way. It’s truly crazy that they made so many bad decisions. If anything it’s good for us fans that Piastri and Alonso were not stuck in a mediocre Alpine. We witness greatness from Alonso all year long, and Piastri got on the podium and even won a sprint race. None of which would have happened in that most mediocre team called Alpine.

  2. I imagine that wasn’t the only decision that Otmar was overruled on and I’ll bet he has quite a story to tell about his time at what is becoming the joke team of F1.

    Alpine need to decide whether they really want to stay in F1 and actually commit instead of just remaining mediocre and disinterested.

    1. I imagine that wasn’t the only decision that Otmar was overruled on and I’ll bet he has quite a story to tell about his time at what is becoming the joke team of F1.

      A big chunk of the mess was created and prolonged by Otmar himself; he is the prime responsible that Piastri didn’t have an airtight contract with Renault/Alpine.

      1. Agreed, but it goes beyond not having a contract in place. Piastri was the most successful racer in the feeder categories for many years, but Renault / Alpine had him on the sidelines for a full year with no guarantee of any seat in 2023. I don’t blame him for taking his chance with McLaren.

  3. How can ppl blame Sfaznauer for either the Ocon contract or the Piastri debacle?
    Ocon was signed on his long term contract months before Sfaznauer arrived at Alpine.
    And the Piastri contract was similarly negotiated before he joined Alpine.

    Furthermore, it’s quite clear that Rossi was responsible for the driver contracts.

    So why people think Otmar is to blame is beyond me.

    1. You are probably right. But why is then Otmar taking this defensive (and quite dishonest) stance ? He clearly took it personally…

    2. And the Piastri contract was similarly negotiated before he joined Alpine.

      As stated by Webber (as Piastri’s agent/manager) – “there was no contract”
      The problem was further up the food chain than Szafnauer. Webber offered to show emails to the media that proved the lack of response, with even so much as a memorandum of understanding prior to a full contract. Webber’s emails chasing things apparently started in autumn the previous year – that’s chasing a lack of progress up to that point.
      I suspect that if you checked with Alonso, it was a similar story with the lack of progress on a contract there.

      Unsurprisingly, both drivers looked elsewhere and found something they liked.
      The CRB had an easy job, look at the lack of a signed contract with Alpine, look at the signed contract with McLaren.

  4. Otmar’s argument is that they would’ve had a better shot if they went through the English courts, as opposed to the CRB.

    Well, why didn’t they insist on it in the first place. It seems like their lawyers screwed up by letting the CRB be the ruling body. Or, could it be that they are bound to refer these matters to the CRB (rather than through the English courts) and the English courts wouldn’t have found any differently anyway.

    The hazy details I remember from that saga were that Alpine tried to string Piastri along as much as possible without binding themselves to the obligation to give him a race seat, and that lack of a clearly written agreement is what bit them on the arse.

    It seems like Otmar has a severe case of sour grapes.

  5. A bit sad to see Snaf is still not able to own the debacle with Piastri…

    “…the outcome could have been much different than the CRB” – Or not… At the end of the day, there was no formal contract. Either it was deliberate because they were uncertain of what they would do with Oscar, or it’s pure incompetence (it’s a pretty standard thing to do)

    “We performed, Oscar didn’t” – no you didn’t perform. The target was for Alpine to have Ocon and Alonso, there was no seat available at Alpine. How many years on the sideline was Oscar suppose to do ?

    At the end of the day, Oscar knew he had no seat for 2023 and no contract. No wonder he search for an alternative – it would have been stupid not to do so.

    1. A bit sad to see Snaf is still not able to own the debacle with Piastri…

      It wasn’t in his remit, the problem was further up the food chain. Someone trying to be clever and string along an experienced driver and a promising young one.
      Both decided to look elsewhere.

      Szafnauer might have been informed of some elements of the “plan” but I give him the benefit of the doubt and believe he didn’t know what a monumental muck-up his boss was making.

  6. A Ferrari in Red Bull colours is a strange thing to see (Max driving one)

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