As expected, Oscar Piastri has been announced as Lando Norris’ team-mate at the McLaren F1 Team next season, as the young Australian’s situation with Alpine was finally resolved.
It was announced towards the end of the week by the FIA that their Contract Recognition Board (CRB) had come to the decision that the 2021 F2 World Champion was free to join McLaren, with his contract with the Woking-based team being completely legal.
They also deemed that Alpine didn’t have a contract with Piastri for next season.
Alpine argued that the 21-year-old was contracted to them and had to drive for the Enstone-based team in 2023, alongside Esteban Ocon.
Piastri’s manager, ex-F1 driver Mark Webber, has finally broken his silence on the whole saga, insisting that Piastri was allowed to join McLaren, with Alonso seemingly set to remain at Alpine in 2023 at the time of signing for the Woking-based team.
“The chronological situation was that Fernando [Alonso] was still there at the table,” said Webber to Channel 4.
“It wasn’t a choice between the two at the time when the choice was made, and Oscar made the decision to join McLaren.”
Piastri signed a contract to race for McLaren on July 4, with Alpine having known that the Australian was set to leave the French team.
Despite this, the team still decided to announce the Aussie as Alonso’s replacement in August following the Hungarian Grand Prix, after Alonso announced he was joining the Aston Martin F1 Team.
At the time, an official announcement hadn’t been made that he’d signed for McLaren, meaning that messages of congratulations were sent to the Aussie on social media.
Things quickly became ugly, as Piastri released his own statement insisting that he hadn’t agreed to race for Alpine and wouldn’t be doing so either.
Webber insisted that his driver had no choice but to release the “awkward statement”, after the Alpine reserve driver had to “make his position absolutely clear”.
Sensationally, the former Red Bull Racing driver revealed that Alpine made the announcement despite knowing Piastri had signed for McLaren.
“His hand was forced,” Webber declared.
“He knew he didn’t have a contract, he knew he’d already signed for another team and Alpine had put out a statement saying he was going to drive for them next year.
“So it was an awkward statement for Oscar to put out. Of course he felt awkward about that but he had to put a hard line in the sand to make his position absolutely clear.
“And also Alpine knew that position [that he had signed for McLaren] before that statement went out, which was all the more frustrating for Oscar.
With all the facts having now been released, Alpine certainly appear to have treated the young driver with not only little respect, but with no professionalism.
Webber explained his frustration that Alpine made a mess of Piastri’s “biggest moment of his life”, with the whole ‘statement’ situation having been “really tough for him”.
“It’s the biggest moment of his life, going to join Formula 1. Then to have this [statement], which wasn’t totally correct, was really tough on him.”
Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has called Piastri a variety of things including “immature”.
The French side’s boss insisted before the CRB came to a decision that should they lose the case, then they would sue Piastri for compensation, after believing the Australian driver owed them millions.
Alpine made the argument that they’d spent an incredible amount of money on preparing Piastri for life as an Alpine F1 driver, money they now demand back.
Webber put somewhat of an end to Alpine’s compensation comments, by insisting that as much as “80 percent” of Piastri’s budget came from “outside sponsors” and not the team.
Hilariously, Alpine are actually having to pay McLaren and Piastri $420,000 in legal costs, somewhat fitting given how they’ve treated the potential future World Champion.
“I think the numbers have really been ballooned out of proportion,” Webber added.
“In the junior categories, Oscar got some good money from winning those championships outside of Alpine’s investment.
“Over 80 per cent of the budget was supplied by outside sponsors and Oscar’s family for his junior career. It’s important to get some context.”