As the Formula 1 summer break has come to an end, so has the Oscar Piastri Saga, one of the silliest stories of this year’s F1 silly season that has had an impact on much of the paddock.
Piastri will drive for McLaren in 2023 after the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board ruled in McLaren’s favour over that of Alpine. This verdict means that Alpine have lost their highly rated reserve-driver, who happens to be the reigning champion of Formula 2, and that they will have to continue searching for a replacement for veteran driver Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard will also leave Alpine behind to drive for Aston Martin in 2023 instead.
Prior to the verdict, Alpine remained adamant that they had a valid contract for Piastri to drive for them in 2023 that was signed last November, having announced the Australian’s promotion at the start of August this year. However, the young Australian disputed the claim that he would be driving for Alpine via a viral tweet just hours later.
Meanwhile, Piastri’s management, including compatriot Mark Webber, believed that the deal with McLaren was solid as a clause with Alpine had expired. So, to sort out this mess, the CRB began a hearing into the dispute and revealed on Friday, August 2 that they had unanimously voted in favour of McLaren and Piastri.
The CRB said “The only contract to be recognised is the contact between McLaren and Piastri dated 4 July 2022. Piastri is entitled to drive for McLaren for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.”
Alpine said they “acknowledged the decision,” adding that “we consider the matter closed on our side and will announce our full 2023 driver line-up in due course.”
Speaking after the verdict, Piastri said “I’m extremely excited to be making my F1 debut with such a prestigious team as McLaren and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that’s been offered to me,” adding that “The team has a long tradition of giving young talent a chance, and I’m looking forward to working hard alongside Lando (Norris) to push the team towards the front of the grid. I’m focused on preparing for my F1 debut in 2023 and starting my F1 career in papaya.”
Now without both Alonso and Piastri, Alpine must find another driver to join Esteban Ocon on the grid, and the favourite for the seat is Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman is currently under contract with Red Bull-owned team AlphaTauri until the end of 2023, nevertheless Alpine are in talks to sign Gasly.
Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has confirmed that talks are underway between the two teams. “We have a valid contract for 2023 but in the meantime there are talks,” Marko told Sky Germany, adding that “If our conditions are met, we wouldn’t stand in Gasly’s way. It would be a dream come true for him to drive in a French factory team, but not all the conditions have been met yet.”
That leaves Daniel Ricciardo’s future in F1 altogether uncertain, as the eight-time race winner will leave McLaren at the end of the current season, a year earlier than when his contract was originally set to expire.
Featured image: Oscar Piastri – REUTERS | Nacho Doce