In the Oscar Piastri affair, the key testimony of Laurent Rossi was missing to grasp its full dimension. Understand why the young Australian had turned away from his training team to drive for McLaren in the Grand Prix next year. And what error(s) could Alpine have made to get there.
On Saturday, the managing director of Alpine cars spoke at length to the official Formula 1 website to explain all the ins and outs. Two elements emerge from his remarks: Alpine had not had his young driver sign any contract for 2023, and the latter wanted better than the Williams that the Blues offered him to start in Formula 1 in 2023.
Italian Grand Prix
Leclerc under pressure, Verstappen offensive, overtaking: The GP in question
14 HOURS AGO
“We acted very logically, in line with our commitment to him. From that point of view, it’s a very direct story, and simple.”, summarizes Laurent Rossi. For months, Alpine tried to contractually bind the 21-year-old Australian, Formula 2 champion in 2021, with a view to racing him in Formula 1, without success.
Alpine always believed it would be possible because he had been part of her academy for four years, and she had invested heavily in him. Laurent Rossi reveals having exercised the option appearing in his contract on November 15, 2021 by appointing him as a reserve for the F1 team for 2022, accompanied by a complete training program including 5,000 km of driving in the year and the commitment to find him a racing seat for 2023 and 2024.
The epilogue of the Piastri affair makes the 2023 grid more readable
Williams, “a great steering wheel to learn with less pressure”
The Melbourne native was 3700km covered in August and Alpine had complete confidence in him. “We gave him full access to the team, debriefings, technical meetings and he was with me most Sundays listening to the race. He wasn’t just a reservist, but he was said to be the most trained rookie ever“, specifies Laurent Rossi.
All this could only please the greatest hope that F1 has undoubtedly known in recent years, except for one detail. “Alpine has hired someone just to find him a starting steering wheel in 2023, adds the boss of the Dieppe brand. The proceedings led to an agreement with Williams in April. The molding of the tub was even programmed“, he recalls, when he was informed by the management of the Australian (Mark Webber and his associates) that an opportunity existed at McLaren.
Which he didn’t worry about when he heard Daniel Riccardo hammer home on July 6 that he would be at McLaren in 2023. But two days earlier Zak Brown, the boss of McLaren Racing, had sealed the future of “Dan The Man by signing Oscar Piastri for 2023. “We didn’t know he had signed”recognizes the French manager, for whom the Williams was “a great steering wheel to learn with less pressure.”
This is why the Aussie never wanted to link up with Alpine beyond what his training provided. “He never signed the contract we offered him.reveals Laurent Rossi. We made many reminders. They never signed. We couldn’t retain him because he never signed a contract. We expected more loyalty.”
Total confidence in Szafnauer
“We made legal technical errorshe admits. We left the door ajar by not forcing him with a contract so tight he couldn’t move. Why did we do this? It’s a bit of an oversight because we never would have thought that when you give someone so much that they wouldn’t take it.”
So, the confidant of the CEO of Groupe Renault and president of Alpine car, Luca de Meo, assumes. “I would say that things happen for a reason, he confides. We did not share the same conception of things, perhaps not the same values. It may be better this way, to separate.”
And to come back to Fernando Alonso’s refusal to extend for a year, plus another option. “We only had a two-year option with Oscar. Fernando had a desire to drive longer in F1, which couldn’t work for us unless we lost Oscar. It didn’t make sense to us.”he explains.
In retrospect, the priority given to Alonso for 2023 and possibly 2024 has alienated Piastri irreparably. But Rossi does not hold it against the Spaniard. “He’s an incredible champion, he will remain a legend of our brand, but it didn’t work and that’s life, he says. We will remain on good terms. He is an exceptional champion, a gentleman.”
So, what about Otmar Szafnauer, the team manager who seemed to live this soap opera as a spectator? “I have complete confidence in him. answers Laurent Rossi. Since his arrival, he has been remarkable. It makes the difference and continues to do so. He was recruited to help me take a step back. I have someone very capable at the helm.”
This sad affair needed an end and this interview probably put an end to it.
Oscar Piastri (Alpine) at the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix
Credit: Getty Images
Italian Grand Prix
“Away from the rhythm”: Hamilton, Russell and Mercedes in nothingness at Monza
18 HOURS AGO
Italian Grand Prix
Refreshed, Leclerc aims very high: “Do everything to bring victory home”
19 HOURS AGO