Alpine CEO launches attack on defector Oscar Piastri

Oscar Piastri will leave Alpine for McLaren at the end of the current season.

Alpine CEO, Laurent Rossi, has launched an attack on Oscar Piastri following the breakdown of the relationship between team and driver.

Piastri won the Formula 2 title last year while part of the Alpine academy, a year after the French team had helped fun his successful Formula 3 campaign.

There was no room for the 21-year-old in Formula 1 this year though, so he was forced to sit on the side lines as Alpine’s test and reserve.

Fernando Alonso was out of contract at the end of the season, so team principal, Otmar Szafnauer, was trying to negotiate a deal with the double world champion, but he could only offer him one year.

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There was then reportedly an option to extend further if the 41-year-old’s results were satisfactory, but he felt as though his performances this season should have warranted a straight two-year deal.

This might ordinarily have been possible, but Alpine had Piastri to think about too, so it was possible that the 32-time race winner might have been booted out at the end of 2023.

On the flip side, it was also a possibility that the young Aussie might not get a drive at any team until 2025, and he did not want to race at the back of the grid with Williams.

Both drivers became exasperated with their treatment, so Alonso signed with Aston Martin, while Piastri went to McLaren to agree a deal with Zak Brown that will see him replace Daniel Ricciardo.

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The former F2 champion told Alpine of the news when he signed the contract at the start of July but, after Alonso signed with Lawrence Stroll, the Enstone-based team announced Piastri’s promotion anyway.

The driver market was turned on its head when Piastri took to social media to publicly deny that he would be partnering Esteban Ocon, and Alpine were furious.

They felt, at the very least, that they were owed compensation for the money they have put into Piastri’s junior career, only for him to turn his back on them.

The contract recognition board (CRB) waved those protests away, leaving Piastri free to join Lando Norris at McLaren next year, and Alpine in need of a driver.

Rossi argues that all Piastri needed to do was be patient, and he might have had a drive with a works team, rather than a customer one.

“He would have driven for us after Alonso left, McLaren and us are about the same strength. But we are a factory team, that’s a competitive advantage,” he told Auto Motor und Sport.

“He grew up in this team, he knows everyone with us. We’ve shown our commitment to him, shouldn’t he be a little grateful?”

Irrespective of Piastri’s prospective success, Rossi feels that this episode will follow the youngster around for the rest of his career.

“Oscar would do well to be fast and deliver results next year, but even if he becomes the new Michael Schumacher, this story will stick with him forever,” stated the Frenchman.

“There is no excuse for Oscar’s behaviour. He has chopped off the hand that fed him and played with us because any draft contracts were not submitted on time.”

The Corsica-born CEO reiterated that a deal with Williams was ready to be signed; Piastri just did not want to race for them.

“If he says he didn’t feel full affection from us, then I wonder why we offered him all the opportunities to become as complete a Formula 1 driver as possible?” said Rossi.

“These were not empty words, but actions. If he claims that the contract situation was too obscure for him, then I say: He knew that we had the Williams contract in the bag. 

“There was nothing murky about it, he just used this excuse to look elsewhere.”

Rossi is adamant that Piastri’s opportunity would have come soon enough after Alonso left, and he wanted his driver to show a little more patience.

“He was disappointed that we bet on Alonso and not on him straight away, and he didn’t want to drive for Williams,” he added.

“We told him he should be happy with what he’s getting. Fernando will definitely be racing at a much higher level than a rookie next year. 

“Maybe Oscar would have got there at some point, but certainly not right away. This applies to 95 percent of all drivers in the field.”

Rossi used Mercedes’ George Russell, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Red Bull’s world champion, Max Verstappen, and four-time champion with Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel, as examples of drivers who have come through the junior ranks and achieved success.

“As for Williams, George Russell raced there for three years and it didn’t do him any harm, has he ever complained?” he reasoned.

READ: Lando Norris’ staggering McLaren salary will be 30x more than Oscar Piastri’s

“Now that he’s driving for Mercedes, it’s clear that this training couldn’t have been that bad. 

“After all, Russell immediately drives on par with Hamilton, a seven-time World Champion. Leclerc, Verstappen and Vettel also learned from a junior team beforehand.”

Szafnauer has previously questioned Piastri’s “integrity” amid his departure from the team, but the French side have accepted the CRB’s decision to allow him to join McLaren.