Alpine team principal, Otmar Szafnauer, has questioned Oscar Piastri’s “integrity” amid the Australian’s rebellion against the team.
Piastri is currently serving as test and reserve driver to Alpine having won the Formula 2 championship in 2021 as part of their junior programme.
The French side have been endeavouring to find him a loan deal for next season, but they did not want to put him straight into their car next year, as they still wanted to offer Fernando Alonso a new deal.
However, the Spaniard was not happy with the contract length or the fact that the Enstone-based team were holding off due to concerns that they might not find a seat for Piastri.
As a result, he made a deal to join Aston Martin next season to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel, something which Szafnauer suspects was on the table long before.
The young Australian was promoted up to a full-time race seat by the team, but he too decided that he no longer wanted to wait for Alpine to make an arrangement with another team, as they were holding off until they were certain of Alonso’s future.
It is understood that his manager, Mark Webber, has made a deal for his driver to race for McLaren next season in place of Daniel Ricciardo.
However, Alpine believe that they have a contractual agreement that obliges Piastri to drive for them, and Szafnauer reiterates that this is the case.
“We had a contract with Piastri so we need to understand where that takes us legally,” he told El Confidencial.
“We believe – and it’s why we issued the statement – that we have a binding agreement, so let’s some time studying where this takes us.
“If Piastri is not in the car, and I think he will be, I have like 14 phone calls from drivers who are interested. Our seat is the most valuable one left.
“It’s no wonder so many people have called me, but of those 14, there will be four on the final list, and Piastri is among them.”
The Romanian-American believes that, given the testing time and the career funding Alpine have given Piastri over the years, they deserve a bit back, particularly if he is going to up and leave them.
“The contract we have says we should support him in his career to Formula 1 by investing a lot of money,” explained Szafnauer.
“Last year we gave him a car that he did 3500 kilometres in, we did seven independent tests with it and this isn’t cheap – the cost of the engine alone is 1.7 million euros.
“We spent an awful lot of money on Piastri to prepare him for the future and, if that future is not with us, it is logical and fair that we seek compensation.”
Veering away from the 21-year-old as a racing driver, Szafnauer is disappointed with the way Piastri is behaving as a person.
“We have spoken with our lawyers and they have told us that this is a binding contract, and part of it allows us to put Oscar in one of our cars in 2023,” he added.
“There is also an option for 2024 and the possibility for us to loan the driver to another team, I expected more loyalty to the team that made him ready for Formula 1 – I expected more loyalty from Oscar than he is showing.
“And it’s not just about Formula 1, but about integrity as a human being, but it’s not done yet.
“He signed a paper, a document, saying that he would do something different to what he has done.”
Should Piastri join McLaren, Szafnauer has previously indicated that he would be open to Ricciardo returning to Enstone.