Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer says he wouldn’t be surprised if it was discovered that Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber had worked together in some capacity regarding the fallout between the team and Oscar Piastri.
When Alonso announced that he was to leave Alpine to drive for Aston Martin at the end of this season, the French team moved quickly to promote academy driver Piastri for the 2023 campaign.
However, they soon discovered that he had already made a deal with a rival team, widely thought to be McLaren.
Feeling he was contractually obliged to drive for them next year, Alpine announced that he would do so. The young Aussie then released his own statement saying that he wouldn’t.
The dispute now looks set to go to court with both Alpine and McLaren believing the driver is theirs for 2023, and Piastri himself wanting to drive for the latter.
It has been reported that the 2021 F2 champions’ contract with Alpine expired on July 31, and Alonso announced he’d be leaving the team a day later.
The timing is coincidental, to say the least, and Szafnauer thinks it could be more than just chance.
Webber is Piastri’s manager and given his close friendship with Alonso during their days on the F1 grid together and the fact that both have connections to Flavio Briatore, the American thinks there could have been some collusion.
“This is Formula 1 and maybe in a couple of years someone says that they have evidence of shared information,” he told Reuters.
“I would not be surprised. I always tell everyone that in Formula 1 you have to act as if everyone knows everything.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years. There are no secrets.”
If Piastri does end up driving for McLaren rather than Alpine next season, Szafnauer has little doubt that his team will take legal action.
“Going to the high court is over 90 per cent certain what we’ll do,” he said.
“If the CRB (Contract Recognition Board) says ‘Your license is only valid at Alpine’ and then he says ‘That’s great but I’m never driving for them, I’ll just sit out a year’ then you’ve got to go to the High Court for compensation.”
There have been reports that the CRB has in fact found Piastri’s contracts with both teams to be valid. If that’s the case, it’s unclear what would happen.