Double world champion Fernando Alonso has claimed that the failure of contract talks was ultimately caused by Alpine’s overemphasis on backup driver Oscar Piastri.
The Spaniard made a return to Formula 1 in 2020 with the team that assisted him in winning two world championships in 2005 and 2006 after leaving McLaren at the end of 2018.
Alonso had his career-high at Alpine after finishing third in the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix marking his 98th career podium. The Spaniard also assisted his teammate Esteban Ocon secure the Enstone team’s first victory since their time as Lotus in 2013.
He had a contract with the French team that was about to expire at the end of this year, and he was looking for a new deal that would keep him there for several more. However, due to his advanced age and desire to have Piastri promoted to a full-time driver in the following years, Alpine only intended to offer him one more year.
The 41-year-old was set on a future with Ocon and Piastri in their squad, but the team boss Otmar Szafnauer’s plans did not include him, so the two-time world champion decided to look for a Formula 1 drive elsewhere. Later, Alonso signed with billionaire Lawrence Stroll’s team Aston Martin after Sebastian Vettel’s impending retirement opened the door.
Alonso disclosed that Alpine and himself had launched contract talks at the beginning of the current campaign, but little progress had been made because of their attention on Piastri.
“The first discussions were in Australia in March, nothing happened… They were worried about Piastri, his place, Piastri’s future – Piastri, Piastri, Piastri,” Alonso admitted. “Then Sebastian ended his career and everything changed.”
Despite his remarkable performances, the 32-time race winner did not appreciate having his age called into question.
“It seems quite strange to me that I am judged every year on what my passport says is my birthday, the other teams think differently and trust my abilities,” added Alonso.
“It felt like the right decision to go to Aston because they really seemed to want me and appreciated the performance I had done in the last two years.”
“I haven’t experienced that in maybe the last year and a half.”
Szafnauer demands compensation from Oscar Piastri for the time and money invested in his career, but the team believes that he has broken the contract, therefore Alpine and the 21-year-old have gone to the contract recognition board this week to settle their legal issue.