Otmar Szafnauer hit out at Oscar Piastri amid the Australian’s refusal to drive for Alpine, opting for a McLaren drive, claiming he lacked integrity.
The Piastri/Alpine/McLaren debacle is still developing, with McLaren’s announcement that Daniel Ricciardo will be leaving the team at the end of 2022, one year before his contract’s expiry, all but confirming that the Woking outfit want to place the reigning Formula 2 Champion in one of their cars next year.
Reports claim that Piastri has already signed a contract with McLaren, who will be facing Alpine at the Contract Recognition Board on Monday to settle the conflict between both teams.
Otmar Szafnauer spoke of this matter on the eve of the Belgian Grand Prix just as McLaren confirmed Ricciardo’s exit, and confirmed Piastri’s McLaren contract.
“I think the right thing for us to do is go to the CRB on Monday, see how that pans out and then start looking at some negotiations in earnest,” Szafnauer told Sky Sports F1.
“He’s a promising young driver, he hasn’t driven in Formula 1 yet, and my wish for Oscar is he had a bit more integrity,” the Alpine boss added.
Szafnauer lamented that, while Alpine kept delivered on their side of their existing deal with Piastri, the young driver hasn’t.
“He signed a piece a piece of paper as well back in November and we’ve done everything on our end of the bargain to prepare him for Formula 1,” he said. “His end of the bargain was to either drive for us, or take a seat where we would place him for the next three years.”
“I just wish Oscar would have remembered what he signed in November and what he signed up to,” Szafnauer regretted.
Zak Brown hits back
McLaren CEO Zak Brown, on the other hand responded to Szafnauer’s “lack-of-integrity” accusations of Piastri referring to the latter’s days as Racing Point team boss when the team were found guilty of copying Mercedes brake ducts for which they were forced to pay and hefty fine, and endure a cut in Championship points.
“Judging by recent times and the way Fernando caught Otmar by surprise,” Brown said hinting at Fernando Alonso’s blind siding move to Aston Martin.
“And not too long ago he was the recipient of a €400,000 fine and 15 points,” he went on. “I’m not sure he comes with the highest level of credibility and making accusations of ethics.”
In the midst of such a legal conflict, it is natural that both parties will resort to all the weapons they have in their arsenal to ensure they come out on top.
But what makes matter interesting, if not surprising, is the fast that McLaren have gone to such lengths to hire Piastri, especially when they have a Lando Norris in the other car, not to forget the big cheque they had to write for Ricciardo to vacate his seat one season earlier.
No one is denying that Piastri is a decent driver, but is he that good? Sure he won the F2 Championship from the first time of asking, but that does not guarantee how he gets along in Formula 1.
As for Piastri, what if Alpine win the case at the CRB? He can’t drive with McLaren, and the bridges are burnt with Alpine. Why take that risk? Next week seems to be holding some answers.