Oscar Piastri denies he will replace Fernando Alonso at Alpine next season

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Oscar Piastri
Oscar Piastri won last year's Formula 2 Championship

Oscar Piastri says he will not replace Fernando Alonso at Alpine next season - after the team said he would.

Alpine announced on Tuesday afternoon that the 21-year-old would race "in line with the commitments made by the team to the young Australian".

But Piastri then tweeted that he had "not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023 and will not be driving for them next year".

He said the announcement was "wrong" and had come "without my agreement".

Later on Tuesday, an Alpine spokesperson said in response: "We believe we are legally correct in our statement but don't have anything further to say."

The dispute comes at the end of an extraordinary two days for the team.

Alpine left the Hungarian Grand Prix believing they were close to an agreement with two-time world champion Alonso to continue with them in 2023, and were trying to place Piastri at Williams on a temporary basis.

But on Monday morning, Aston Martin announced they had signed Alonso, Alpine's most competitive driver this year, to a "multi-year contract".

On Tuesday morning, Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer held a news conference in which he admitted that Alonso's announcement had surprised the team, and that it had been a result of a disagreement with the 41-year-old Spaniard over the length of the contract.

Alpine were offering only a one-year deal with an option for 2024, while Alonso wanted a guarantee he would race for at least two years, Szafnauer said, confirming information widely known within F1.

Szafanuer told reporters he was unable to confirm Piastri would race, despite having "contractual obligations".

But then Alpine put out a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying Piastri would race after all.

However, the fact that there was no quote from Piastri in the media release fuelled suspicions that Alpine had acted unilaterally.

Piastri, 21, is known to have had conversations with McLaren in recent weeks.

Szafnauer had admitted that Piastri's unwillingness to drive for Williams was "a consideration" and said he was "not privy to whatever pre-arrangement [Piastri] has with McLaren, if any any all".

He added: "I do know he does have contractual obligations to us and we do to him. We have been honouring those obligations all year.

"We do have a legal contract with him into the future with '23 and and if an option is taken up, for '24."

Szafnauer also said he had been having problems getting in touch with Piastri's manager, the former F1 driver Mark Webber, adding: "Oscar and his camp are 'considering their options', whatever that means."

Asked whether they had since spoken to Webber, a spokesperson for Alpine said there was "contact as appropriate".

The dispute raises further questions about Daniel Ricciardo's future at McLaren.

Ricciardo has been outperformed by team-mate Lando Norris this season, and in June chief executive officer Zak Brown admitted his time with the team had not met expectations.

On 13 July, Ricciardo released a statement insisting he was committed to F1 and determined to stay with McLaren to the end of his contract next year.

But Piastri's statement that he will not race for Alpine suggests he believes he will be driving in F1 elsewhere - and the obvious place for that to be is McLaren, with whom Alpine are this year disputing fourth place in the constructors' championship.

The stand-off has echoes of another contractual dispute in motorsport at the moment, this time in IndyCar racing.

Both the Ganassi team and McLaren have announced that IndyCar champion Alex Palou will race for them next season.

As with Alpine, Ganassi's statement did not feature a quote from Palou, who later said he had not authorised the statement and would be leaving Ganassi.

That dispute is now the subject of legal action.

What happens next?

There are a number of ways to resolve this dispute between Alpine and Piastri, one of the most highly regarded drivers not yet in F1.

The first would be for the parties to settle their disagreement and for him to race for the team. But Piastri's public statement suggests he is in no mind to do that.

The second would be for Alpine and the other team involved in this dispute - which is assumed to be McLaren - to come to a settlement or deal.

This would potentially involve McLaren paying compensation, if they agree that Alpine have a contractual claim on Piastri, but he wants to switch teams.

McLaren were uncontactable on Tuesday evening.

The final option is for the dispute to go before the contracts recognition board of the FIA, F1's governing body.

This is a team of independent lawyers - the contract recognition board (CRB) - employed to decide such disputes quicker than would typically be possible in courts. They would decide who had prior call on the driver.

Famously, this happened over a dispute involving Jenson Button in 2004.

Button chose to move to Williams from British American Racing, who insisted they had the right to exercise a contractual option to keep him.

The CRB ruled in favour of BAR and the Briton had to stay where he was.

Button, who switched management as a result of the dispute, came to be grateful for the intervention.

As it turned out, Williams were beginning the decline that has led to them becoming one of the least competitive teams in F1 for the past few years.

BAR, meanwhile, were bought out by Honda for 2006, and Button won his first grand prix for the team in Hungary that year.

Honda pulled out of F1 at the end of 2008, giving Button a couple of nervous months, but the team was reconstituted as Brawn, and Button won the drivers' title with them in 2009.

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