Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer admits he wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there is a secret ploy against the Alpine Formula 1 squad.
On the first day of summer break, Fernando Alonso announced that he would be joining Aston Martin in 2023 on a multi-year deal.
It was expected that Alpine junior Oscar Piastri would take his seat, however when the team declared that it had promoted him for 2023, Piastri took to social media to deny the claim.
It is believed that Piastri has an agreement in place with McLaren to replace Australian compatriot Daniel Ricciardo next year.
Asked by El Confidencial if he believes there was information being shared behind the backs of Alpine between Alonso, Piastri and Piastri’s manager Mark Webber, Szafnauer said: “I have no record of it.
“But this is Formula 1 and maybe in a couple of years someone says that they have evidence of shared information, I would not be surprised.
“I always tell everyone that in Formula 1 you have to act as if everyone knows everything. That there are no secrets in these things.
“When you ask someone not to say anything, they act like everyone knows. That’s how I’ve run my business in Formula 1 for 25 years. And if this has happened, you should not be surprised.”
Piastri’s plans for 2023 have not yet been officially confirmed, however Szafnauer has questioned why the Australian would want to depart the Alpine stable.
“The strategic plan is very good and Piastri knows it, better even than McLaren’s,” he said. “We are ahead of them in the Championship and we hope to be ahead of them at the end of the World Championship.
“We have a big budget and people with a lot of experience. I just arrived, I know the areas to reinforce, the technical team, we are recruiting people in the areas that we need to improve and we are implementing new tools.
“In our future, in that 100-race plan that 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 literally invested millions and millions of euros to prepare him. So I don’t get it either, you should ask him.”
Alpine shot themselves in the foot and are getting what they deserve by not retaining Alonso when they had been telling him he would be with the company for years to come, even claiming he could race for their Le Mans team in a few years. A shame really, because it really looked like they might be one of the top teams within the next few years. Their performance in recent years reminded me a lot of Renault in the years leading up to Alonso’s two titles in 2005 and 2006, but I think it will all go down the drain this time. I suppose legally they might be able to force Piastri to drive one of their cars, but I can’t think of many worse things for an F1 team than having a driver who doesn’t want to be there.
Why would there need to be a secret plot against the team. The speed with which two drivers have acted to get themselves out of having to drive that car next year suggests there’s a shitshow of such proportions behind the scenes that even getting rid of incompetence on the level of that proffered by Abiteboul hasn’t resolved it. Alonso knew they wanted him to continue, the seat was his next year, but the moment an alternative arose he was gone, without even asking for a counter-offer to match what Aston Martin had put on his table. At that point, Piastri knew that the seat had become his, the team actually announced him as their new driver, but he still refused and legged it out the back door to sign for McLaren, despite possible legal entanglements to follow from Alpine trying to make him honour his contract there, and from Ricciardo trying to prevent McLaren from breaking theirs with him. That’s a double shitload of determination to not drive an Alpine car in 2023 by those two.
As to the specifics of the two of them sharing information, how would that work against Alpine’s ability to retain one of them for next year. If Alonso knew that Piastri was offski, he could use that to get his second year on the deal, and then Alpine keep him. Alternatively, if Piastri knew Alonso was about to vamoose, he’d have no cause to bat his eyes in McLaren’s direction, therefore Alpine would get to keep him instead. Plus, how the fuck does Szafnauer know how good McLaren’s plans are. Or even what they are. I think Szafnauer’s whiney complaints about loyalty are indicative that things are going wrong at Alpine in a big way, and he thinks they’ll struggle to get any driver with a decent reputation to preserve to join them. If Ricciardo opts against rejoining, perhaps to go to Williams, where prospects are looking better under Jost Capito than they have for quite a long time, that really would expose the depth of malaise at Enstone.