Did McLaren manipulate and lie to Daniel Ricciardo?

Oscar Piastri will partner Lando Norris at McLaren next season.

Alpine’s handling of their driver situation this season will very likely go down as one of the biggest fumbles we have seen in recent memory, but questions are also being asked of McLaren.

The British side signed Daniel Ricciardo at the beginning of last season, and he has since struggled.

The car has not been suited to him and, while he has tried his best, neither he nor the team have been able to find a solution for his pace deficit to Lando Norris.

Despite the win in Monza last year, the 33-year-old’s results have not sufficed, and the difficult decision was made to part ways at the end of the season.

READ: Alpine blamed for not honouring ‘promise’ made to Oscar Piastri

More on that later, but how have the Woking-based team now come to sign Piastri?

The 21-year-old won the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles under the tutorship of Alpine – formerly Renault – but he did not have a seat for this season.

The French side therefore kept him on as test and reserve driver, and they were looking to tie up Fernando Alonso to a new contract that went beyond 2022.

In the meantime, team principal, Otmar Szafnauer, was trying to find a loan move for the young Australian that would see him get some Formula 1 practice in 2023.

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There was then a possibility that he might end up in the Alpine seat by 2024 if Alonso departed after next year but, if that did not happen, there was a chance that he would be side lined again.

It was entirely possible too that Piastri would not be on the grid at all next year either, as Alpine were yet to secure a loan move to another team.

Alonso grew tired of being told that his talent weighed less than his age, so he rejected Alpine’s offer of a one-plus-one deal instead of a straight two-year contract.

The double world champion was aware that there was a chance he would not be with Alpine in 2024 due to the team’s commitment to Piastri, but the F2 champion himself knew that he could end up waiting until 2025 for a seat due to Alonso’s extended stay.

In the end, the Enstone-based team could not decide who they wanted in the long run, and both drivers had grown impatient at the lack of security due to Alpine’s commitment to three drivers – the other being Esteban Ocon.

As a result, Alonso signed with Aston Martin to replace Sebastian Vettel, and Piastri will head to McLaren in Ricciardo’s stead.

Piastri had told Alpine of his decision, but they announced him as Alonso’s replacement anyway, before the 21-year-old publicly denied that he had been promoted.

Interestingly though, the contract recognition board (CRB), who checked Piastri’s contract with McLaren and found it to be legal, stated that it had been signed on 4 July.

This is where things are even more confusing, because Ricciardo, after his employers had already signed another driver, put out a statement out nine days after Piastri’s signature stating that he was committed to staying until the end of his contract next year.

McLaren team principal, Andreas Seidl, has since insisted that the 33-year-old was told of the decision at the time, leading to questions as to why he would put out a statement revealing that he was staying if he knew that he was not.

The German called himself “transparent” at this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix, indicating that nothing underhanded had taken place.

Intentional or not, the situation is cruel on Ricciardo who, at best, was accidentally misled, and at worst, was directly lied to about his future.

While McLaren have clearly mishandled the departure of their eight-time race winner, Alpine have kicked the can too far down the road.

Szafnauer’s team told two drivers that they had a future with them, but never clarified how long that would last and, in Piastri’s case, when he would end up with a full-time Alpine seat.

If Szafnauer wanted the Aussie in the car in 2025, then he simply should have solved his Alonso problem by tying the 41-year-old down for another two years.

If he wanted Piastri earlier, then putting him in the car next year would have avoided all of the drama we have seen unfold.

READ: Daniel Ricciardo thinks Oscar Piastri has ‘guaranteed spot’ in Formula 1

Sure, they would have lost Alonso at the end of this season, but only giving him one more year initially just to keep the door open for Piastri was unfair on the 32-time race winner. 

As a result, Alpine have ended up with one driver in their team instead of two, so huge mistakes have been made.

PR nightmares at both McLaren and Alpine have come together to make this silly season one of the silliest we have ever seen.