Szafnauer blasts Piastri: 'I've never seen anything like this'

© XPB 

Otmar Szafnauer has seen it all in Formula 1 in the past thirty years, and yet the Alpine team boss is taken aback by the behaviour of Oscar Piastri, admitting he expected "more loyalty" from the young Aussie.

Alpine is currently preparing for a legal battle with its F1 reserve driver who has reportedly signed an agreement to race with McLaren in 2023 while under contract with the Enstone squad for next year.

Piastri's controversial move was triggered last week by the announcement of Fernando Alonso's departure from Alpine to join Aston Martin F1 for next year's campaign.

The news logically led Alpine to confirm its highly-rated junior as Alonso's replacement next year alongside Esteban Ocon.

But Piastri immediately denied that he was contracted to Alpine for 2023, insisting that he would not be racing for the French outfit next season.

Presently, the situation between the two parties remains fluid. But Alpine is standing by its claim that it has a legitimate right to employ Piastri in 2023.

Speaking out publicly on the matter for the first time since the controversy erupted, Szafnauer confirmed his team's stance.

"We have a contract with Piastri, which he signed in November," the Alpine team boss told Spain's El Confidencial.

"We have spoken to our lawyers and they have told us that this is a binding contract.

"So part of that contract allows us to put Oscar in one of our cars in 2023, which is the reason we issued the press release.

"There is also an option for 2024 and the possibility for us to 'loan' the driver to another team. We wanted Fernando with us for one more year and then a 'loan' of Oscar for 2023.

"I have always said in all my press conferences that Piastri would be in Formula 1 in 2023 and it is because I knew he could be in our car or in another car, on loan, if Fernando had stayed.

"But Alonso, for whatever reason – and I think I know the reasons, although you should ask him – is going to Aston Martin.

"So, we started to finalise the agreement with Piastri, and instead of giving him away, we decided to put him in our car. Hence, the statement."

Asked why Piastri, who has been supported by Alpine since 2020, has suddenly decided to switch his allegiance to another team and refuse a race seat with the French outfit, Szafnauer said he didn't understand the Aussie's decision, especially in light of Alpine's ongoing "hundred race" plan to become a top contending team in F1.

"I think it's a question for Piastri, because I don't understand it either," the American replied.

"In our future, in that hundred-race plan we are all working on, I think there is also room for Piastri. And we have supported him.

"There should be some loyalty to the fact that we have invested literally millions and millions of euros to prepare him. So I don't understand it either, you should ask him.

"I expected more loyalty from Piastri," he continued.

"He should have it with the team that has taken care of him, that has taken him to the World Championship and, above all, that has during the last year put him in a Formula 1 car so that he would be ready, so that he would know the circuits."

As a man of his word who faithfully follows his set of principles in life, Szafnauer is clearly confounded by Piastri's lack of probity.

"I expected more loyalty from Oscar than he is showing. I started in 1989 in Formula 1 and I've never seen anything like this," added the Alpine team boss.

"And it's not about Formula 1, it's about integrity as a human being.

"It could happen in ice hockey or soccer, it doesn't matter. But you don't do that. He signed a piece of paper, a document, saying he would do something different.

"For me, the way I grew up, I don't need to sign a piece of paper and then have someone say, 'You're lying, because you signed this.' For me, if you say, 'Hey, help me, I'll help you tomorrow,' there's no way I would go back on my word. No way.

"You did everything I asked you to do (from Alpine to Piastri) and now I promise you that if you do this, I will do this. I don't need a piece of paper where it says, 'With a clause, I can get out of here'."

Alpine's next steps will involve either a litigation process or a settlement with Piastri or McLaren. Szafnauer says the team could seek financial compensation from the Aussie.

"We have to take into account that last year we put him in a single-seater and he did 3,500 kilometres," he explained.

"We have done seven independent tests with him and this is not cheap at all. The cost of an engine alone is 1,750,000 euros. The mechanics, the team that managed those tests, the flights and travel...

"We have spent lots and lots 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."

If the 21-year-old ends up severing ties with Alpine, there is no lack of candidates to fill Alonso's seat insists Szafnauer.

"If Piastri is not in the car – which I think he is going to be – because Fernando is out, I have about 14 phone calls from drivers who are interested, because the Alpine seat is the most valuable seat left," he stated.

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