According to Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer, his team didn’t find out that Fernando Alonso would join Aston Martin until the formal public press statement was released.
On Monday, Fernando Alonso signed a multi-year contract with Aston Martin, replacing German four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel, who revealed last week that he will retire from the sport at the end of the current season.
The two-time world champion said he would start talking about next year at the start of the summer break, with every open seat being an option, prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.
Szafnauer was shocked by Alonso’s decision to join Aston Martin since he believed the 41-year-old driver’s contract with Renault-owned Alpine was about to be renewed. In an interview, Szafnauer disclosed that Alonso did not inform the Alpine team of his impending departure.
“It was the first confirmation I had,” Szafnauer told reporters on a Zoom call. “Obviously, when we’re in the paddock, there’s all sorts of rumours, and I had heard rumours that Aston were interested.”
“Once you hear that they’re interested, there’s probably discussions that took place… But I was confident that, even with the discussions, and there’s nothing wrong with exploring, that we were very close.”
“So yes, the first confirmation I had was the press release… I did ask the question (to Alonso). And I was told: ‘No, no, I haven’t signed anything.’ So I was a bit surprised.”
According to Szafnauer, Alpine had extended Alonso’s contract and given him a seat for the 2023 season with an option to extend for an additional year.
“We offered a one plus one deal. And we discussed with Fernando that: ‘Look, if next year at this time you’re performing at the same level, of course, we will take you and that could have carried on’,” Szafnauer added.
“But I think he wanted more certainty independent of performance: ‘I want to stay for longer.’ and I think that was the crux of the going one plus one as opposed to two plus one or three plus one or three years.”
At Aston Martin, Alonso will drive alongside Lance Stroll; however, it is yet unknown who will take Alonso’s seat at Alpine.
Oscar Piastri had been seen as the favorite, but according to a French newspaper, Daniel Ricciardo is a strong contender to replace him at McLaren in 2023.