Oscar Piastri. (Alpine Photo)

Piastri: Is He Or Isn’t He?

The Alpine Formula 1 team named Oscar Piastri, its reserve driver, as replacement for Fernando Alonso who is leaving the team for Aston Martin at the end of the season on Tuesday.

“Oscar is a bright and rare talent,” said Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer in the press announcement earlier Tuesday. “We are proud to have nurtured and supported him through the difficult pathways of the junior formula.

“Through our collaboration over the past four years, we have seen him develop and mature into a driver who is more than capable of taking the step up to Formula 1.

“As our reserve driver he has been exposed to the team at the track, factory and testing where he has shown the maturity, promise and speed to ensure his promotion to our second seat alongside Esteban (Ocon). Together, we believe the duo will give us the continuity we need to achieve our long-term goal of challenging for wins and championships.”

A quote from Piastri in the team press release was conspicuous by its absence, and after initially failing to respond to the announcement on social media, the young Australian has now stated that he is not contracted to the team in 2023.

“I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year,” Piastri said. “This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”

The comment from Piastri all but confirms he has an agreement in place with another team – believed to be McLaren – which would bring Daniel Ricciardo’s position into question.

In a remarkably similar scenario to the one involving Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing and McLaren in IndyCar, Alpine announced Piastri as Alonso’s replacement on Tuesday afternoon European time despite Szafnauer admitting he believed there were contractual complications involving Piastri being linked to a switch to McLaren.

“Oscar and his camp are ‘considering their options,’ whatever that means,” Szafnauer said. “I’m not privy to whatever pre-arrangement he has with McLaren if any any at all, but I hear the same rumors you do. But I do know he does have contractual obligations to us and we do to him.”

Alpine states it has promoted Piastri “in line with the commitments made by the team to the young Australian”, and pointedly states that since it promoted him to reserve driver he “has since been undergoing, under the team’s guidance and its full financial support, an intensive and comprehensive training program of private tests in the race-winning A521, the 2021 Alpine F1 car, race support and simulator sessions to prepare him for the next big step into F1”.

The announcement was also made at 2am Australian time regarding the 21-year-old, who has been in demand since winning three junior titles in a row, culminating in last year’s Formula 2 championship.

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