Otmar Szafnauer says Alpine F1 is keen to bring in Oscar Piastri for next season to replace Fernando Alonso, but the manager has been unable to confirm he will be able to strike a deal!
Piastri’s manager, former F1 driver Mark Webber, is in Australia and they had not yet spoken since Alonso’s announcement.
“Oscar and his camp are considering their options, whatever that means,” explains Szafnauer today.
“But I’ve been trying to reach Mark and I’ve been texting and emailing him as well. So give us some time. Oscar is our number 1 favorite candidate. And that’s what we’re going to do. “
When asked why they couldn’t just take Piastri if they wanted and have a contractual hold on him, Szafnauer said: “There are certain considerations ranging from a reserve driver contract with options to becoming a racing driver contract.”
Alpine reportedly tried to place Piastri at Williams or McLaren, to secure Alonso for 2023, with a view to choosing between the two for 2024.
Szafnauer said he “understood” why Piastri would have contacted McLaren in these circumstances.
“I’m not aware of any prior agreement he has with McLaren, if any, but I hear the same rumors as you. But I know he has contractual obligations to us and we have to him. .”
“And those obligations, last until 2023, and maybe 2024, if certain options are taken. And our obligation to him this year was to be a reserve driver, to also put him in the car of the last year for a significant amount of time. We were well over half of that 5,000 kilometer program, which is not negligible, in last year’s car, in preparation for a race next year.”
“Also with Free 1s coming, simulation work, and we’ve fulfilled those obligations on both sides. We have a legal contract with him in the future for 2023. And if an option is taken, for 2024. So I don’t don’t know what he did with McLaren. Like I said, I’m not aware of that.”
Alpine F1 wants to get a return on its investments.
“It’s a big investment. It’s more than just a financial investment, it’s also an emotional investment, and preparing it for what we could be a success story in F1. Not all F1 teams who is doing this for a successful academy rider, but we chose to do this to prepare him.”
“And we only did that in the hope of racing him in F1 in the future. We wouldn’t have done that, if the goal was to prepare him for one of our competitors.”
Szafnauer said if Alpine was unable to get Piastri because he would go to McLaren instead of Daniel Ricciardo, then Ricciardo would be “a good option”. But he doesn’t expect it to come to that.
“The situation is now different. Now that there is clarity since Fernando has chosen to go to Aston Martin F1, the choice is not to place Oscar elsewhere, like at Williams. McLaren, obviously it is more tempting. Once that choice is in front of you, I can understand it. But now we have to move on because this all only happened yesterday. It’s Tuesday. So we’ll sit down and move our driver pair forward. “
“There shouldn’t be any complications. If everyone sticks to the agreements they signed just a few months ago, we could move forward with the agreements we have put in place.”