The bizarre Oscar Piastri contract saga
Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Sameena Khan
Since Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement last Thursday, the transfer market has gone into spirals and the Formula One silly season has well and truly begun.
As they always do, rumours suddenly emerged suggesting multiple drivers in contention for Vettel's vacant seat - only for Alpine's Fernando Alonso to swoop in and announce a switch to Aston Martin on a multi-year deal. The move was undoubtedly unexpected and quite confusing to most, but it provoked fans to think Alpines reserve driver Oscar Piastri would be confirmed to replace Alonso.
Flash forward to this afternoon (2nd August 2022), and fans were correct in predicting Piastri as Alpine released a statement announcing the promotion of the 21-year-old to a race seat alongside Esteban Ocon next season. This evoked a positive online reaction from F1 fans, seeing the reigning F2 champion finally get the drive he deserved. The only bizarre part of the announcement was Oscar's lack of a statement. While Alpine gave a brief but confirming report, nothing came from Piastri's end, leaving some fans bemused. Unfortunately, this issue would present itself not that long later.
Come this evening (around 7 o'clock), Oscar finally released his statement, although it was not what we expected. His tweet read, "I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 has released a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year. This is wrong, and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year."
The world of F1 was coiled into chaos immediately, catching everyone off guard with a single tweet. Piastri's statement left fans puzzled about what was going on with himself and Alpine, and I'm sure it would've been a nasty shock to Alpine. It hasn't been their first either, as it is reported that Fernando Alonso decided not to tell Alpine about his sudden switch to Aston Martin, which certainly would've left Alpine flat on their backs. As far as Alpine were aware, they thought Piastri was obliged to race for them, and them promoting him in response to Alonso's departure would be a no-brainer. How wrong they'd be.
The biggest question is, what would’ve caused Piastri to turn Alpine down? The most probable answer to that is the interest McLaren has in Piastri. It’s potentially Oscar Piastri’s agent and former F1 race winner Mark Webber who has and can play a big part in this saga. The fellow Aussie has been in meetings with McLaren CEO Zak Brown over what we can only imagine is Oscar Piastri. Even if McLaren wants him, however, they still have a driver taking up that second seat, Daniel Ricciardo. As we all know, Danny has had an incredibly tough and abysmal season with McLaren this year, and he is likely at risk of potentially being replaced by McLaren for someone like Piastri. Despite this, Daniel has stated numerous times that McLaren has told him whether he leaves or not is up to him. If this Piastri situation becomes tense negotiations between multiple parties, then the interests of Daniel Ricciardo might be side-lined.
The craziest thing about this whole debacle is that McLaren was involved in a similar incident last month in IndyCar. This time, it was over the signature of reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou. The Spaniard’s current team, Chip Ganassi Racing, announced that Palau would be racing for them in 2023. That same day, McLaren announced that they’d signed Palou despite his contract, and he’d be driving for McLaren Arrow SP in 2023. As it has with Piastri, madness ensued online, and Chip Ganassi Racing is currently suing McLaren for their acquisition of Palou, a valuable member of their team.
This story will undoubtedly develop over the coming days and maybe even hours, but from me, it’s bye for now.