Given the previous comments of Renault CEO, Luca de Meo, Alpine played a waiting game while deciding whether they wanted to go with Fernando Alonso or Oscar Piastri next year, but they waited too long.
Alonso re-signed with Alpine last season after taking a two-year sabbatical from Formula 1 having left McLaren for the second time at the end of 2018.
The Spaniard scored points 15 times over the course of 2021, and managed his 98th career podium at the Qatar Grand Prix.
Alonso might even have bettered that result had it not been for some huge slices of misfortune this season, displaying that, at 41 years of age, he is still one of the very quickest on the grid.
Stats aside, he has matched, and often out-performed, team-mate Esteban Ocon at the French team, so it was a surprise to get to the midway point of the season with his contractual situation still the same as it was at the beginning of the year.
Alonso was set to run out of contract at the end of the current season, and the consensus was that he was set to discuss a new deal over the summer break.
However, there was an ulterior intention from Alpine that the Oviedo-born racer may have taken issue with.
So much talk this season has been about Alpine’s reserve driver, Oscar Piastri, and the potential of putting him into Williams’ car on loan next year.
But if they truly wanted to loan him out and keep Alonso, then Alonso’s deal would have been negotiated and signed far in advance.
Nicholas Latifi’s Williams seat may or may not have opened up for Piastri and, even had it not, at least the Enstone-based side would still have their reliable pairing of Ocon and Alonso next year, while they could still try and find a seat for Piastri.
Instead, they are in danger of being stuck with a pairing that they do not want, and this is all their own doing.
While using Alonso’s tenure as a transitional period to get to Piastri, it almost feels as though Alpine were using the possibility of signing Piastri as a stalking horse for Alonso.
Perhaps they wanted Alonso to come down on some wage demands, maybe they were trying to convince the Spaniard that he might be left without a seat next year if he does not re-sign.
Or perhaps, it could be that Alonso did indeed want a new contract, but Alpine simply could not decide whether they wanted him or Piastri in the car next season.
Pitting two drivers against each other contractually, which may or may not be the case at Alpine, is dangerous. Why? Because there is absolutely no guarantee that they will stop focusing on each other, and start focusing on you.
A driver wants to be at a team where they feel wanted, but the longer Alonso’s contractual situation has gone on for, the more disillusioned both he and Piastri will have become.
Therefore, they would surely prefer to go to a team where they are wanted, not as a bargaining chip, but as a racing driver and a person.
The possible strategy deployed this season by Alpine was reliant on both drivers still desiring a seat with them next season.
When Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement at the end of the year last week, and Alonso signed with the British side, everyone thought ‘job done,’ as far as Alpine were concerned.
Alonso would go to Silverstone – thought it was a surprise for Alpine – Piastri would come on board, and all of their problems would be solved, but they created problems in their own organisation that are very difficult to solve.
Piastri, perhaps realising that he deserves more than to be used as a negotiating tactic, is looking elsewhere – McLaren seems to be the target of his manager, Mark Webber.
And Alonso, in the words of The Race writer Edd Straw, became tired of being “pensioned off into sports cars.”
Now, Alpine are left with a choice between suing a driver just to get him to race for them, or looking left field to find an Alonso replacement.
De Meo previously asserted that the solution he finds for Ocon, Piastri and Alonso would not be “100 percent” satisfactory or everyone, but unbeknownst to him, it is now even less so for Alpine.