Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi has shed light on “some mistakes” which took place in regard to their reserve driver and 2021 Formula 2 World Champion Oscar Piastri, who rejected a 2023 seat at the French side in favour of a move to McLaren.
As is well documented, the saga between Alpine and Piastri began following the Hungarian Grand Prix, where Fernando Alonso announced that he’d be leaving the Enstone-based side to join Aston Martin next season.
A day later, Alpine released a statement of their own which explained how delighted they were to announce that Piastri would line-up alongside Esteban Ocon in 2023; however, it was done without the 21-year-old’s consent.
Piastri quickly released a statement of his own, insisting that he hadn’t agreed to race for Alpine next season and crucially wouldn’t be doing so either.
This left Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer furious, who labelled the Aussie “immature”.
It was soon reported that Piastri had agreed to join McLaren, with Daniel Ricciardo to get the boot.
Alpine were convinced that the Australian youngster was contracted to race for them in 2023, so took the case to the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board (CRB).
The CRB concluded that Piastri wasn’t under any sort of contract to race for Alpine next year, and that he was legally allowed to sign for their papaya rivals.
Rossi has now revealed that it turned out Piastri “never signed” a contract to race for Alpine, with the French team having expected “more loyalty”.
The Enstone-based side basically gave Piastri freedom to sign the offered contract at a time that suited him, instead of being there to watch him sign it.
“He never signed any contracts we put to him,” Rossi told F1.com.
“We put contracts forward many times. They were never signed. We could not retain him because he didn’t sign a contract with us. We were expecting more loyalty.
“We made some mistakes, we made some legal technical mistakes,” he says. “We left the door ajar by not forcing him in with a contract that is so tight he couldn’t move.”
Rossi explained why the team gave Piastri so much freedom in regard to signing the contract, with the Frenchman having believed that “when you give so much to someone” the recipient usually demonstrates loyalty.
Alpine had lined up a deal for Piastri to race for Williams alongside Albon for two-years; however, Rossi thinks the Aussie believed he was “better” than the British side.
“Why did we do that?” questioned Alpine’s CEO.
“It’s a bit of an oversight because we never thought that when you give so much to someone, when you give them training, a reserve role, a seat in a partner team, he will not take it after being supported for so many years and winning the championship through your support.
“Like George [Russell] before him, who went to Williams before returning to Mercedes, like Charles [Leclerc] who went to Sauber before returning to Ferrari, like Max [Verstappen] and like Sebastian [Vettel, who both raced for Toro Rosso before driving for Red Bull] – they all did a ‘junior’ team before moving up.
“I’m a bit surprised that Oscar thought that first, he was better than Williams. I can understand from a sporting perspective McLaren might be more interesting based on pure on-track results than Williams, but we didn’t expect that after so much support, so much loyalty, they would use that back door to shop around and get what felt like a better contract for them.
“Those are not the values we exhibited.”
Rossi is extremely honest that mistakes were made, but he has now come to the conclusion that it’s arguably “better” to be “parting ways”.
“This is how I see the story,” continued Rossi.
“Of course, we made mistakes, otherwise we wouldn’t be here talking about the topic, but we feel we stayed very true to our commitment, to our values and to our words to Oscar.
“But I would say things happen for a reason. We’re not sharing the same conceptions of things, and perhaps not sharing the same values, so it’s perhaps better this way, to be parting ways.”