‘Really ballooned’: Mark Webber accuses Alpine of dishonesty in Oscar Piastri saga

Oscar Piastri will join McLaren next season.

Former Formula 1 driver and manager of Oscar Piastri, Mark Webber, has suggested that Alpine were not entirely honest about the money they put into the 21-year-old’s junior career.

Piastri was promoted to the role as test and reserve driver with the French side this season after winning the Formula 2 title last year as part of their academy.

He had also won Formula 3 in 2020 while working with their junior programme under its Renault guise, and he was ultimately being prepared for a race seat.

However, team principal Otmar Szafnauer had told the Australian that, depending on the future of Fernando Alonso, Piastri might not have an Alpine seat until 2025.

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Nonetheless, the Romanian-American wanted to keep the reserve driver on board until then, meaning that it was entirely possible Piastri would not be on the grid at all in 2023 and 2024.

Szafnauer offered Alonso a one-plus-one deal, citing the 41-year-old’s age as a factor towards his decision not to put a straight two-year offer on the table, so there was a possibility for Piastri in 2024 were Alonso’s performances to deteriorate.

With Alpine unable to decide who they really wanted in the long run, both Alonso and Piastri had enough, and decided to look elsewhere.

Alonso will move to Aston Martin next season following Sebastian Vettel’s retirement, while Piastri has made a deal with McLaren to replace Daniel Ricciardo.

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The F2 champion told Szafnauer of his decision, only for the team to announce his promotion anyway, so Piastri was forced to take to social media and publicly deny that Alpine had moved him up.

Szafnauer was unhappy at that, as he felt Piastri had shown a lack of “integrity” by turning his back on the team that had funded his career.

They therefore wanted compensation, so the matter went to the contract recognition board (CRB) who found that Piastri’s contract with McLaren was solid.

Webber revealed during the Dutch Grand Prix weekend that Alpine did not put as much into his driver’s career as they say they did.

“The numbers have been really ballooned out of proportion,” he told Channel 4.

“The summer break has given people a chance to throw millions and millions and millions, it’s certainly not that.  

“The junior categories, Oscar got some good prize money for winning those championships as well, outside of Alpine’s investment.

“So over 80 per cent of the budget was supplied by outside sponsors and Oscar’s family for his junior career and the Academy, so it’s also important to get some context there.”

The nine-time race winner confirmed that Alpine knew of Piastri’s move before they announced his promotion, and will discuss the next steps with the team, as it is now possible the Enstone side will not give Piastri any free practice running this year.

“Next week there will be a discussion to be had, now that’s all out there,” added Webber. 

“Obviously, the current has been underneath for a while that something was happening, but they knew that, absolutely crystal clear they knew that.

READ: ‘His hand was forced’: Oscar Piastri’s manager slams Alpine as he breaks silence

 “So now we are at a point where we will have a chat, he has been working hard for this team, doing long hours. 

“He has tried to contribute as much to Alpine as much as he can in terms of performance and doing as much as he can to help in the sim.”

Ricciardo personally reached out to Piastri to congratulate his compatriot on the move to McLaren, and affirm that there are no hard feelings.