Oscar Piastri says Alpine failed to offer clarity over his future before his controversial move to Formula One rivals McLaren, while he described a meeting with team principal Otmar Szafnauer as 'bizarre and upsetting'.
Piastri is the reserve driver for Alpine this season and when Fernando Alonso decided to leave the French team, they announced that the 2021 F2 champion would be promoted in his place.
However, Piastri instead joined McLaren, where he will replace fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo next season.
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The 21-year-old had already agreed to the move before Alpine’s announcement, because he felt at the time that there would be no seat available at his current team.
An arbitration was required to resolve the dispute between Piastri and Alpine, and the Contract Recognition Board (CRB) ruled that McLaren had the valid contract.
“The CRB ruling has confirmed I didn’t have a contract for the 2023 season [with Alpine],” Piastri said in an interview with the F1 website.
“I was free to choose my destiny – and I felt McLaren was a great opportunity. They were very straightforward and very keen and enthusiastic to have me. To be completely honest, there was a lack of clarity around my future at the team at Alpine.
“They publicly stated they wished to continue with Fernando for at least one or two more years. I respect that.
“But after spending the year out, my hopes were firmly set on an Alpine seat and the lack of clarity and, similarly to Fernando, a bit of a strange feeling in negotiations, it didn’t feel like it was the right decision for me [to stay around].
“The lack of clarity around my future, and ultimately a breakdown in trust, I felt the very attractive offer of McLaren and the positive dealings with them thus far were all reasons why I felt McLaren was where I was best off for the future.”
Alonso will leave Alpine to join Aston Martin ahead of the 2023 season, a move that took the French team by surprise.
Alpine published a press release saying that Piastri would replace the Spaniard, despite having twice been told by the driver and his representatives that he wouldn’t be driving for them next year.
Piastri responded with a tweet in which he clarified that ‘I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023’ and ‘I will not be driving for Alpine next year’.
“My decision was made well in advance [of Alonso’s departure], which made Alpine’s announcement probably even more confusing and upsetting because we had told the team that I wasn’t going to continue,” Piastri said.
“It was quite upsetting as the announcement was false and it also denied me the opportunity to properly say goodbye to everyone at Enstone.
“I had been with team for a bit over two and a half years now, and for the rest of the team to find out I was leaving in that manner was very upsetting. I still haven’t had the opportunity to say goodbye and it’s something I want to do to show my gratitude to all the men and women at Enstone.”
Alpine team principal Szafnauer has said that he spoke to Piastri before the announcement was made, claiming that the driver ‘smiled and was thankful’.
But that is not Piastri’s memory of the meeting.
“That was a bizarre and frankly upsetting episode," Piastri said. "It was done publicly in front of some members of the team who were oblivious to the situation and I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of them.
“Once we were in private, I told Otmar what our position was and what he had been told multiple times before that. It was very surprising to me to make that announcement.”
He added: “It was the biggest moment of my career and probably my life up to now. To have that falsely announced was something my management and I felt we had to correct and there was also potential legal implications if we didn’t deny the announcement.
“It was not intended to be pointed or in any way anything more than factual. The last line was quite a strong one, but with the CRB ruling, it shows it was purely a fact.”
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