Oscar Piastri’s situation with Alpine has by far been one of the stories of the season, with the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board (CRB) having come to the conclusion that Piastri is legally allowed to race for McLaren in 2023.
It has left the Enstone-based team in a huge mess, having lost both Piastri and Fernando Alonso, who is replacing Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin next season.
Alonso announcing his departure from Alpine arguably kicked-off the saga, which took place a day after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
It was believed that the Spaniard was going to extend his deal with Alpine for 2023; however, it’s since been revealed that the contract Alpine offered wasn’t what the double World Champion had wanted.
Alpine offered Alonso a two-year deal with the option to then move away from F1 but to race for the team in the World Endurance Championship or in the Dakar rally.
It was the best deal Alpine could offer Alonso, as they’d planned for Piastri to drive at Williams for two seasons.
Laurent Rossi told the official Formula 1 website that the French side “couldn’t match” Alonso’s demands, with a deal supposedly already in place with Piastri.
“We wanted him to continue with us as an endurance and/or Dakar driver,” Rossi said ahead of qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix.
“We spoke about it at length last year. Why did we only offer him two years? We only had two years of option with Oscar.
“Fernando had a desire to drive longer in F1, which we couldn’t match or we would have lost Oscar. It didn’t make sense for us. More than likely, we couldn’t match other conditions that were offered, too.
“So, with Fernando, we would have loved to continue. He’s an amazing champion, he will remain a legend of our brand – but it didn’t work and that’s life. We will stay on good terms.
“He’s an exceptional champion, he’s a gentleman, he’s continuing to do fantastic work for us despite having signed [for Aston Martin for next year]. We’re sad to part ways but we remain family. That’s life. It’s a blow to lose a champion, but it happens. Silly seasons, they move like that.
“Oscar was not expected,” he adds. “Frankly, it’s disappointing.”
The 2021 F2 World Champion has infuriated all involved at Alpine, with the young driver having been given “full access” with the French team despite only being a reserve driver.
Rossi explained that they have fulfilled everything they had promised Piastri, which included the chance to drive 5,000km in an F1 car.
The Alpine CEO believed Piastri would be the “most trained rookie ever”, with the team having also made an agreement with Piastri in 2021 that they’d find him a seat for 2023 and 2024.
“He drove 3,700km by August. We would have easily obtained the 5,000km,” added Rossi.
“We gave him full access to the team, debriefs, technical meetings and he was with me most Sundays listening to the race. Not only was he a reserve, but he would have been the most trained rookie ever. He knew how the team operated, how an F1 driver is supposed to operate in the team.
“We feel like we delivered. We went above and beyond.
“We hired a person just to find him a seat [with another team], because we wanted to do that properly. By the end of April, we found him a seat at Williams.”
The 21-year-old had a seat at Williams all but guaranteed for him by Alpine, with a seat fitting having been scheduled back in April.
Piastri’s loyalty was again questioned by Rossi, with the CEO revealing yet again that they had absolutely no idea that he’d agreed a deal with McLaren behind their backs.
“When the Williams opportunity was about to turn into a concrete deal, so much so that the seat fitting was scheduled, they [Piastri’s management team] said ‘we have a possible opportunity at McLaren,’” said Rossi.
“It was a bit disappointing. We felt it was a bit strange, because we expected a bit more loyalty considering how much we put in there. He didn’t say he was going to go, he said he had an opportunity.
“Then we saw in July, the sixth I think, that [Daniel] Ricciardo was confirming for the year after [this is two days after, it later emerged, Piastri had signed with McLaren]. So we thought there is interest, but there might not even be a seat.
“There was perhaps an opportunity [at McLaren, but] the door is closing, so Oscar is still in play for us. It explains why we decided to promote him – he was reserve and we elevated in the same framework to race driver.
“Otmar [Szafnauer, Alpine Team Principal] saw him, told him, and we announced it. We never knew for a fact he had signed. He never told us.
“We still believed the Williams seat was a great one, a great opportunity to learn without a bit less pressure – a very good team to learn in, very seasoned, capable of growing talents like George [Russell, who spent three years at the team as something of an apprenticeship before being recalled to Mercedes].
Upon reflection, Rossi does think his team made some mistakes along the way, with giving a driver such freedom essentially being one of them.
Looking into the future, Rossi wants the team to make contracts on their academy drivers tighter, so that they can’t “move”.
“We made some mistakes, we made some legal technical mistakes,” he continued.
“We left the door ajar by not forcing him in with a contract that is so tight he couldn’t move.
“Why did we do that? 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.
With Alonso and Piastri both gone, Alpine are left with a seat to fill for 2023 alongside Esteban Ocon.
The team appears to have two options, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly or F2 and Alpine Academy driver Jack Doohan.
Both have their pros and cons; however, Rossi is adamant that team principal Otmar Szafnauer isn’t going to “rush” the decision.
“We don’t want to rush into the decision,” revealed Rossi.
“It’s a process Otmar is leading, as he knows what is best for the team. We take input from our engineers. The driver is important, but the car is the most important by far.”