Alpine team chief Otmar Szafnauer on Friday accused the team’s reserve driver Oscar Piastri of lacking “integrity” as a row over his future continued to dominate paddock gossip at the Belgian Grand Prix. Piastri, a 21-year-old Australian who has won the Formula Three and Two titles in successive seasons en route to a F1 career, is at the centre of a contract dispute involving Alpine as he seeks to break free. Alpine claim that Piastri, managed by compatriot and former F1 driver Mark Webber, signed a contract with them for 2023, which he has rejected as he bids to move elsewhere.
He is heavily linked with a switch to McLaren to replace fellow-Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who on Wednesday announced he had agreed to leave the team at the end of this season.
“My wish for Oscar was that he had a bit more integrity,” Szafnauer said.
“He signed a bit of paper back in November and we’ve done everything on our end of the bargain to prepare him for F1 and his end of that was to either drive for us or take a seat where we would place him for the next three years.”
The dispute began in the wake of Aston Martin’s recruitment of two-time champion Fernando Alonso from Alpine to succeed retirement-bound four-time champion Sebastian Vettel next season.
On discovering that Alonso intended to leave, Alpine announced they were promoting Piastri, but he countered by saying he had not signed a contract and would not be with the team in 2023.
The situation is due to be assessed and reviewed next week by the International Motoring Federation (FIA) contract recognition board.
Szafnauer on Friday also responded to suggestions that Ricciardo might make a return to Alpine next year, having spent two years with the team when they were named Renault.
“We haven’t had any discussions yet, but everybody speaks highly of him from his time with the team,” said Scafnauer.
His comments came 24 hours after Alonso had dismissed claims that he, his manager Flavio Briatore, formerly team boss of Renault, and Webber, who was managed by Briatore during his racing career, had colluded to disrupt Alpine’s plans.
Alonso said he had read news media reports.
“Sad and annoying”
“Honestly, it was quite sad and annoying to read about that conspiracy because I made this decision.
“For some months, I had been chatting with the team about extending the contract (with Alpine), but nothing officially arrived and nothing officially happened, and Aston called me after Sebastian retired.
“If Sebastian had continued, this would probably not have happened, the move to Aston. There were very clear and very easy decisions from my side, and what happened after and what is happening with Oscar, is completely not my thing.”
Briatore left Formula One after a colourful career when he resigned as Renault team chief following the ‘crashgate’ scandal associated with the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
Thirty-one years ago, following the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, Briatore persuaded new boy Michael Schumacher to join his Benetton team after he had made his debut with Jordan.
Schumacher raced at the Italian Grand Prix for Benetton and went on to win two drivers titles with them before claiming a further five with Ferrari.
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