Fernando Alonso announced his decision to race for Aston Martin in 2023 and it is fair to say that this took his current team Alpine by surprise, much like the rest of the paddock.
In response, Alpine was quick to inform its fans that reserve driver Oscar Piastri would get a much-awaited full-time role at the team starting next season.
However, he refuted any such agreement and it is speculated that this is a direct result of vying for fellow countryman Daniel Ricciardo’s seat at McLaren.
This is primarily due to the deal that Alpine had previously offered Piastri.
Alpine was set to offer Piastri the option of going to Williams on loan in 2023 which they believed would be the final year on Alonso’s contract.
This was not something that Piastri and his manager Mark Weber were overly keen on.
A legal battle between Piastri and Alpine is set to take place in the aftermath of these events, with Alpine claiming that they have a right over Piastri and he cannot joining any team as they had a ‘watertight agreement’.
Team boss Otmar Szafnauer was already forced to field “a bunch of calls from potential drivers” over Alonso’s vacated seat.
However, it is believed that of all the options, Ricciardo may well be the best one that Alpine has, despite his wobbly form over the past few years.
Ricciardo, though, did not leave the then Renault team on the best of notes.
Renault (now Alpine) had spent a considerable amount of money to recruit Ricciardo, but he broke away from their agreement in his second year with the team and chose to join McLaren.
Back then, the decision was naturally not received well by the Renault administration, but the management has changed since.
Why Alpine is still keen on Ricciardo
When asked whether it could be a point of contention regarding a potential return for Ricciardo, Szafnauer discussed why the team could still be open to the idea owing to its 100-race plan of getting to the top of the field.
“I mean, if you look at Fernando, for example, he comes and goes, and I think that happens to other drivers too,” he said.
“And I don’t think that’s an issue at all. I think what we need to focus on is, like I say, the plans that we have for the next 89-88 races.
“We’ve got to make sure that we complement that plan with the best driver that we can, and there are some options out there for us. And we put the best driver in next to Esteban [Ocon], so that we can move forward towards what we’ve been planning.”
Is Piastri still welcome at Alpine?
Meanwhile, Piastri’s social media statement might have also flared tempers at Alpine.
However, Szafnauer did not close the door on working with the rookie despite the precarious situation at present.
“I’ve been around long enough where I’ve seen this kind of thing actually play out and happen,” he said.
“When Jenson signed with Williams and ended up at British American Racing Honda, if you remember those days, there was absolutely no issue.
“I mean, I know Oscar is different from Jenson. Hopefully we don’t have to go down that route, anyway.
“But your presumption was, oh, a driver wants to go somewhere else. So hopefully that’s not the case.
“I have seen it where a driver actually signed with another team incorrectly, so had to drive for the team that he initially signed with.
“And it was absolutely no issue. Jenson at the time did a stellar job at BAR, and never ended up at Williams.”