Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi has suggested the Formula 1 team’s young driver programme could be scrapped in response to the Oscar Piastri saga.
Piastri, Alpine’s reserve driver, has been part of the Renault works team’s academy since 2020.
He won Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles as a Renault/Alpine junior and was envisaged as a future Alpine F1 driver but has opted to leave the team to join McLaren.
That has scuppered Alpine’s desire to promote Piastri to replace Fernando Alonso in 2023, a move it was only keen on once it discovered Alonso would switch to Aston Martin next year.
Piastri is still officially working for Alpine until the end of the year and has performed simulator duties since he and the team ended up in a public stand-off, but the manner of his impending exit has seriously upset Alpine.
Rossi feels “a bit vindicated” because he claims “most of the people in the paddock feel the same way” as Alpine, which has attacked Piastri’s lack of loyalty and blamed the saga on him.
“This is not good for the sport,” Rossi said. “Beyond our little scratch here at Alpine, I think the sport itself gets scratched a bit.”
Piastri’s defection from the organisation that has supported the last couple of years of his career, and had an intention to bring him into F1 with Williams before promoting him to the works team in the long-term, has led to some suggestions that F1 teams will think twice before backing young drivers in the future.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has been Alpine’s most vocal public ally in this scenario and claimed that his organisation will treat junior programme contracts with more care going forward.
This is despite the view expressed by F1’s Contract Recognition Board that Alpine was slapdash in its handling of Piastri’s contractual situation, which is what both prompted him to want to leave and made it possible.
Rossi said: “We were the one who got the burn for everyone else.
“The problem it creates is that it makes the market too fluid a place. That endangers the stakeholders that invest into it.
“If you decide that you’re going to save money every year, by not investing in drivers, and then you just poach them with that money you saved, it’s a different proposition.
“I’m not sure therefore I want to continue training those drivers, or I’m gonna have to lock them in with a contract that might not be appealing to them.
“So how do you solve that? Now, we’re really wondering whether or not [to continue] beyond the current batch of drivers that we have and with whom we’re going to honour until the end our obligations as we have multi-year plans with them.
“We wonder if we’re going to take new drivers, because why would we?”
Beyond Piastri, Alpine has two drivers in Formula 2 – Jack Doohan and Olli Caldwell – as well as Formula 3 champion Victor Martins (pictured below) and F3 race winner Caio Collet. Several drivers are also linked to the team as ‘Alpine Affiliates’.
Alpine is yet to have one its juniors make it to the F1 grid while remaining part of the team since the Renault works programme was revived in 2016. Zhou Guanyu graduated from the Academy when he moved into F1 with Alfa Romeo this season.
But Renault/Alpine has backed many juniors in its current F1 tenure, and the driver programme also existed in prolific fashion during Renault’s previous stint in F1.
“This is part of our history,” said Rossi. “This is the history of motorsport.
“It’s made from stakeholders, mostly manufacturers, creating driver programmes.
“So do we want to change that. Is that too dangerous, is that creating a precedent?
“It’s also a value that we have. We believe in drawing young talents in a set of values that is ours, so that when they reach their peak, they already fit very well with us, they click with us.
“They have the mindset that we like, the values that we like.”