Following Fernando Alonso’s decision to join Aston Martin, it has been widely reported that McLaren Racing has a deal with Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri.
According to numerous media sources, McLaren may be on the verge of signing Oscar Piastri, which would be both unexpected and implausible.
Many believed Piastri would join Alpine once Alonso left, including Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer, but Piastri is now rumored to have a pre-agreement with McLaren for the 2023 season.
Szafanauer emphasized that Alpine may still be under contract with Piastri for the 2024 season. This may pave the way for McLaren to engage in yet another legal dispute during this pointless season. Despite the driver’s obligation to continue competing for his current team in 2023, McLaren signed Alex Palou from Chip Ganassi Racing’s NTT IndyCar Series organization.
For the second consecutive time, McLaren has signed a driver who will be bound by a contract for upcoming campaigns. If Piastri decides to sign with McLaren, Szafanauer won’t stand idly by and allow this happen.
“I’m not privy to whatever pre-arrangements he has with McLaren, if any at all,” Otmar Szafnauer said. “But I hear the same rumours that you do in the pitlane.”
“But what I do know is that he does have contractual obligations to us and we do to him. And we’ve been honouring those obligations all year.”
Piastri, who won four races last year to win the Formula 2 championship, is currently Alpine’s reserve driver. However, Williams have previously been linked to him.
It is unknown at this time whether Mark Webber, his manager, and a former Formula One driver, has reached any agreements with either the Grove-based squad or McLaren.
According to journalist Adam Cooper, Alpine and McLaren are engaged in a legal dispute over whether Piastri should drive for them in 2017 or not.
Cooper claims that Webber has already agreed with McLaren to drive his fellow countryman for them in 2019; this allegation may be bolstered by rumors that Ricciardo is considering returning to Alpine.
The 33-year-contract old’s with McLaren would naturally have to be terminated early if he did this, but both he and the team have stated that they want to uphold it to the end of 2023.
Even if Webber has struck an agreement with the British squad, the official confirmations to date suggest that Woking is not a viable option.
If Piastri is contractually available, Alpine would appear to have little choice but to use him, but Ralf Schumacher does not see the 21-year-old racing for Alpine in 2023.
“The pressure [on Alpine] is increasing,” he told Sky Sports. “We are talking about a factory team that has been investing a lot of money in Formula One for years, but has not had enough success.”
“As a young driver, he is too big a risk.”
As Piastri continues to be the top contender to fill the position on the McLaren’s side of the spectrum, it is certain that Alpine will battle to maintain him and fill the position with him. Alonso and Piastri going down in the same silly season would be a nightmarish scenario. It demonstrates why protecting drivers is so crucial in the current environment.
Esteban Ocon has already committed to Alpine for the upcoming season, and Aston Martin has announced that Lance Stroll would drive alongside Fernando Alonso.
It may have been a mistake on Alpine’s side that Piastri was allowed to join McLaren’s backup driver pool before to the 2022 season by agreement between the two teams.
Much like it did for Palou in the IndyCar, McLaren’s repercussions might be messy. However, the company is hiring people without considering the possible ramifications of their actions.