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Piastri cites ‘breakdown in trust’ among reasons for Alpine exit

by Edd Straw
5 min read

Oscar Piastri says that “a breakdown in trust” with Alpine amid the “lack of clarity” about his Formula 1 future contributed to his decision to join McLaren.

Alpine claimed it had Piastri under contract for 2023 and ’24 and formally announced him as a race driver in August, a claim the driver subsequently refuted. The CRB unanimously agreed Alpine did not have a valid contract, with Piastri’s move to McLaren confirmed on Friday.

Speaking in an interview for the first time since the CRB ruling in an interview with the official Formula 1 website, Piastri explained his reasoning for the move and indicated that the “strange feeling” he had in dealings with Alpine was similar to what Fernando Alonso has talked about.

“The CRB ruling has confirmed I didn’t have a contract [with Alpine] for the 2023 season,” Piastri said.

“I was free to choose my destiny – and I felt McLaren was a great opportunity. They were very straightforward and very keen and enthusiastic to have me.

“To be completely honest, there was a lack of clarity around my future at the team at Alpine.

“They publicly stated they wished to continue with Fernando for at least one or two more years. I respect that.

“But after spending the year out, my hopes were firmly set on an Alpine seat and the lack of clarity and, similarly to Fernando Alonso, a bit of a strange feeling in negotiations, it didn’t feel like it was the right decision for me [to stay around].

“[Because of] the lack of clarity around my future, and ultimately a breakdown in trust, I felt the very attractive offer of McLaren and the positive dealings with them thus far were all reasons why I felt McLaren was where I was best off for the future.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Practice Day Melbourne, Australia

Piastri described the incident on August 2 when he was told the team would be announcing him as a race driver for 2023 as “bizarre and upsetting”.

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer last week described the conversation he had with Piastri that day and said Piastri “smiled and was thankful”.

“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.

“Once we were in private, I told Otmar what our position was and what he had been told multiple times before that. It was very surprising to me to make that announcement.”

Szafnauer repeated his version of events in the team principals’ press conference at the Dutch Grand Prix.

“I’ve never lied to you and I never will,” he said.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Spa Francorchamps, Belgium

“But what I can tell you is reiterate what I said before. Oscar was in the simulator, when he finished the 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, 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.

“And 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.”

Piastri also stressed that he made clear his intentions to join McLaren having agreed a contract with it on July 4, well before Alonso’s decision to join Aston Martin.

He said that this meant Alpine’s 2023 announcement was “false” and that the way Alpine conducted itself prevented him from departing Alpine in the way he wanted to.

“My decision was made well in advance [of Alonso’s departure], which made Alpine’s announcement probably even more confusing and upsetting because we had told the team that I wasn’t going to continue,” said Piastri.

“It was quite upsetting as the announcement was false and it also denied me the opportunity to properly say goodbye to everyone at Enstone.

“I had been with the team for a bit over two-and-a-half years now, and for the rest of the team to find out I was leaving in that manner was very upsetting.

“I still haven’t had the opportunity to say goodbye and it’s something I want to do to show my gratitude to all the men and women at Enstone.”

Piastri said that issuing his public statement on social media describing Alpine’s announcement as “wrong” was necessary owing to the legal considerations of not denying it.

“It was the biggest moment of my career and probably my life up to now,” said Piastri.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Race Day Melbourne, Australia

“To have that falsely announced was something my management and I felt we had to correct and there was also potential legal implications if we didn’t deny the announcement.

“It was not intended to be pointed or in any way anything more than factual. The last line was quite a strong one, but with the CRB ruling, it shows it was purely a fact.”

Piastri confirmed that he is still “happy” to continue in his role as Alpine reserve driver.

According to the team, he is completing simulator driving duties this weekend, although Alpine intends to hold discussions next week to decide on his Alpine future for the rest of 2022.

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