Weeks doesn’t get any more punishment than that.
In the space of 24 hours, Alpine has not only lost two-time star champion Fernando Alonso, but is now in danger of parting ways with one of the sport’s best young assets, Oscar Piastre.
Instantly, three drivers have been locked down from two cars to just one for 2023.
Not a very good look.
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But worse than the mechanics of the problem, left mostly by the two drivers who crave the grid, are the optics.
Not only did Alonso and Piastre wish to leave, but they did so without the team noticing.
It’s sad to lose a driver. Losing two seems careless.
So how did Alpine, part of the world’s third-largest carmaker consortium, backed by Renault, go from being an embarrassment of riches to an embarrassment of riches?
Alpin’s difficult contracture
The team’s woes stem from Daniel Ricciardo’s shock decision to leave Genesis early in the 2020 pandemic shutdown.
Ricciardo’s was the team’s stretch goal – a credible run-winner and his signature sign that the team was on the upswing. Losing him was a vote of confidence that had to be reversed.
Alonso was brought in on a two-year deal – with a long-term future in mind if things clicked – and soon after Esteban Ocon signed an unusually long-term deal that would keep him at the club until the end of 2024. .
But the long-term driver lockout proved to be a downfall when Piastretti dominated the junior divisions. It was initially thought that it would not be ready until 2023; Instead, he won F3 and F2 and is in the middle of the year.
Managing the upward pressure is what led to this crisis point.
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Besides, why is the champion going to the second worst team on the grid?
Fernando Alonso may be 41 years old, but he reckons – and not without reason – that he’s still in his prime. He is a two-time champion with a very big brand name. Diving is a big leap for a beginner, no matter how highly rated. But with Ocon on such a long deal, the only seat Piastri could occupy was Alonso.
So the team offered the Spaniard a one-year deal, not just for a short time – he’s in it for the long haul – but for the insult that made his future depend on him.
Negotiations dragged on as Alonso refused to do anything before the summer break.
And since Piastre’s future depends entirely on whether Alonso stays or goes – he was not only heir apparent but also a quick back-up – the Melburnian isn’t locked out on loan anywhere else on the grid.
In other words, for months Alpine has been running out of time on the contracts of its two most respected drivers.
It was composure that blew the team’s hand and the fuse blew quickly.
Sebastian Vettel decided to retire. he told Aston Martin on Wednesday. It was announced on Thursday, which immediately released potential options for the now calm driver market.
The Alonso and Aston Martin camps met. A package fell quietly. It was announced four days later on Monday.
Alpine took it completely by surprise.
“The first confirmation was the press release,” said Ottmar, the principal of the Alpine group. The competition. I posed the question. [before leaving Hungary] And I was told, ‘No, no, no, I’m not signing anything.’
“I was a little surprised about that.”
There have been signs that Alonso is considering his options, but the Spaniard, who has a good track record of only looking at the Alpine number 1, is not oblivious to the possibility of a change.
“Obviously there are all kinds of rumors when we’re in the paddock,” Szafnauer continued. “I’ve heard rumors that Aston is interested. And once you hear that they are interested, there will probably be conversations that take place.
“There were other signs that conversations happened, like getting out of the same motor home at the same time, things I saw.
But even with the conversations – I was sure it was okay to investigate – we were very close.
“There were a few minor points that stood out.
“He said the lawyer would get back to us. And I believed he was.
“Before he left, I assured him that we would be signing soon, and he said, ‘Don’t worry, I haven’t signed with anyone, we’ll continue this in the next couple of days.’
“Then the next morning I saw he was released from Aston.”
Most shocking of all, despite Szafnauer’s attempts to raise him, Alonso hasn’t picked up the phone since the announcement.
“I think he’s on a boat somewhere in the Greek islands,” Szafnauer said.
A few hours later, Alonso posted a video on Instagram of himself giving the camera a thumbs up in his hometown of Oviedo in northern Spain.
Strangely, Alonso’s move to the ninth-placed home team could be spun as a sort of victory for Alpine. The Aston is unlikely to outperform the Alpine in the medium term, and the fact that the big Canadian dollar is part of the appeal gives it a last-minute saloon feel.
And anyway, Alpine has F1’s next big thing back on the books. Or so he thought.
It has become an open secret that Mark Webber has been discussing the possibility of replacing former Porsche team principal Andreas Seid Piastri in Daniel Ricciardo’s seat. There was even talk of a pre-contract between McLaren and Piastri – this agreement would only come into effect if certain conditions were met.
Of course, Alpine knew this, and Szafnauer indicated he even understood the appeal as the prospect of loaning Australia backmarker Williams grew.
As with most deals in Figure 1, contracts come with trigger dates when certain exemptions are allowed — for example, when negotiations are no longer exclusive, when the incumbent team no longer has the right to match the deal, and when a driver is an effective free agent.
And there’s a reason driver deals happen around summer break — that’s when most of these trigger days fall.
Either the Alpine loyalties of the Piastri camp overestimated the time and money invested in him, underestimated the competitive options given how Ricciardo and McLaren support each other, or simply let the crucial day slip by in oblivion or neglect.
Whatever the case, Weber and team clearly believe they haven’t passed the point of owing Alpine anything.
“Oscar and the camp are considering their options, what does this mean,” Szafnauer said, per The competitionShortly before the team announced Piastri as a driver for 2023 via a press conference, they tweeted that Piastri would be driving elsewhere.
“[Webber is] In Australia, there is a slight time difference. But I have been trying to get hold of Mark and have written him some text messages and some emails too.
But Oscar is our number one favorite. This is what we do.
“There should be no complications.”
Alpine’s last chance press release Piastre, the reserve driver’s denial that he does not have a contract valid for 2023, is a shame for the team. But even that public censure pales in comparison to the apparent mismanagement of the situation at the root of this tension.
“This is more than a financial investment, it’s also an emotional one and it’s about preparing us for a successful Formula 1 career,” Szafnauer said before issuing the team’s slapstick press release.
“Not every Formula 1 team does that for an incoming academy driver, but we chose to do it to prepare him. We only did that with the intention of him competing here. in the future.
“If the attitude was to get him ready for one of our competitors, we wouldn’t have done that.
As legal disputes and settlements continue, there is still the possibility that Piastiri will ride for Alpine next season.
Even the FIA has a body set up to deal with such a situation – the Contract Accreditation Board, which adjudicates two claims for driver services and other related matters.
In the year In 2005, when Jensen Buttons signed for Williams, the current BAR team was given the same season option. CRB ruled in favor of Barr, and he was forced to stay.
“I know Oscar is different from Jensen. We hope we don’t have to go down that road anyway,” Szafnauer said.
But this only ends in one of two ways, and neither is good for Alpine.
The first CRB supports the French team and Oscar stays, and in this case suddenly Webber and the management team are forced to wear some shame for this sorry situation, trying to blow up what was found. Being a legally binding agreement.
Jenson Button has parted ways with his manager after the Williams affair, with the Brit admitting he was given bad advice.
But while there’s no grudge against Piastre himself – the 21-year-old isn’t making these deals off the back of his head – the unmissable Alpine is a determined driver months before the season starts. He didn’t want to compete there.
But the second possible conclusion – the Piastri camp is more likely to express faith – is that the young Aussie will be forced out of the Alpine orbit and the French team will be forced to pick up the pieces from an almost depleted driver market.
And two years ago, Daniel Ricciardo’s loss of confidence began with his departure from the team, two more drivers fleeing Alpine – and perhaps Ricciardo returning with a badly battered reputation and sacked by McLaren by a driver the team thought was his fault. He already had a contract.
Whichever way you cut it, this was the darkest week in Enstone F1 history.