Fernando Alonso blindsided Alpine with shock Aston Martin switch

Fernando Alonso is moving to Aston Martin to replace Sebastian Vettel next season.

Fernando Alonso in Abu Dhabi GP, 2021.v1

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has revealed that he did not see Fernando Alonso’s departure coming.

There had been but a few days of speculation as to who would move across to Aston Martin to replace Sebastian Vettel after the German announced his retirement ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.

Those questions were answered on Monday when the British side issued a press release, complete with quotes from Alonso, confirming that he had signed with them for next year.

However, the 41-year-old had told Szafnauer in Budapest last weekend that he did not have a deal in place with anyone, so negotiations with Alpine could continue into the summer break.

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The Romanian-American, having heard rumours that his driver was in talks with Lawrence Stroll, was therefore slightly taken aback when he woke up to Monday’s headlines.

“Obviously when we’re in the paddock, there’s all sorts of rumours, and I had heard rumours that Aston were interested [but] it was the first confirmation I had,” Szafnauer told Sky Sports.

“Once you hear that they’re interested, there’s probably discussions that took place, I was confident that, even with the discussions, and there’s nothing wrong with exploring, that we were very close [to a new deal]. 

“So yes, the first confirmation I had was the press release. I did ask the question, and I was told: ’No, no, I haven’t signed anything,’ so I was a bit surprised.”

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Szafnauer offered Alonso a one-year-deal that contained the option of another one at the end of 2023, provided the Spaniard’s performances were sufficient.

“[Alonso was] offered a one plus one deal,” he explained.

“And we discussed with Fernando that: ‘Look, if next year at this time you’re performing at the same level, of course, we will take you and that could have carried on’, but I think he wanted more certainty independent of performance.”

Since the confirmation of Alonso’s departure, Alpine have announced Oscar Piastri as his replacement, but he has denied that he will be driving for them next season.

The Formula 2 champion became tired of the French team’s indecision as to whether to sign him or Alonso next year, so is currently thought to be negotiating with McLaren.

Alpine had been looking to get the Australian loaned out to another team, and the possibility that this might not happen was part of the reason Alonso is leaving, so Alpine appear to have shot themselves in the foot while using their drivers to determine the other’s future.