Zak Brown’s brilliant response as he fires back at Otmar Szafnauer’s accusation

Oscar Piastri is expected to join McLaren to replace Daniel Ricciardo next year.

McLaren Racing CEO, Zak Brown, aimed a dig at Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

Szafnauer is currently looking for another driver to race alongside Esteban Ocon next season after Fernando Alonso’s signature with Aston Martin, and the imminent departure of Oscar Piastri.

Piastri won the Formula 2 title last season, and was signed as Alpine’s reserve driver having been part of the Renault turned Alpine junior programme throughout his F2 and Formula 3 campaigns.

The French side were trying to look for a loan move for their driver for next year, but held out until they knew for sure what Alonso was planning to do, since he is out of contract at the end of this season.

READ: Driver accuses Alpine of ‘playing ‘ with Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri

Meanwhile, the Spaniard wanted a new deal that went beyond the end of next season, but due to his age, Szafnauer had reservations.

They therefore reached an impasse, and Alonso started looking for a way out, which he found when Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement at the end of the season.

The 41-year-old met with Aston Martin’s billionaire owner, Lawrence Stroll, at the Hungarian Grand Prix, and signed a two-year deal, which he did not tell Szafnauer about.

The Romanian-American found out about the move via Aston Martin’s press release, so it came as a shock to him.

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The following day, Alpine tweeted that they had promoted Piastri to a full-time race seat next to Ocon, but their press release aroused suspicion, as it did not include any quotes from the Australian.

Piastri took to social media later in the day to reveal that he had not signed anything with Alpine, and he definitively stated that he “will not be driving” for the French side in 2023.

This is reportedly due to the fact that he has signed with McLaren to replace Daniel Ricciardo, making Brown his prospective new boss.

Alpine, however, remained convinced that the 21-year-old is contractually obliged to race with them, so he, in their eyes, is in breach.

Szafnauer is aware that it would make little sense to try and bring Piastri on board at this stage, since he has made it clear that he does not want to be there, so the case has been brought before the contract recognition board (CRB) this week, with the Enstone-based side looking for compensation for the money they have already invested in Piastri’s career.

Szafnauer accused Piastri of lacking “integrity” after the situation unfolded, but Brown made reference to a controversy in 2020 involving the now Alpine boss.

When the 51-year-old was team principal of Racing Point – now Aston Martin –  his team were fined 400,000 euros and docked 15 points for illegally copying Mercedes’ 2019 car.

Brown therefore does not feel Szafnauer is the best judge of character.

“Ultimately I don’t know any of the details between that relationship, so I think it would be unfair for me to take a position either way,” he told Sky Sports.

READ: Oscar Piastri allowed to join McLaren as Alpine make Pierre Gasly their priority

“But judging by recent times, the way Fernando has departed had caught Otmar by surprise, and not too long ago he is the recipient of a €400,000 fine and 15 points, I’m not sure he comes with the highest level of credibility when making accusations around ethics.”

Pierre Gasly is now looking the favourite to take Alonso’s place at Alpine next season, although Ocon, who does not share the best relationship with the 26-year-old, has affirmed that he wants Haas’ Mick Schumacher alongside him next year.

The German is out of contract at Haas at the end of this season.