Alpine had announced they had promoted Oscar Piastri to replace Fernando Alonso - but Piastri says press release was not agreed by him and adds: "I will not be driving for Alpine next year"; Piastri has been linked heavily with McLaren, with Daniel Ricciardo's future in doubt
Wednesday 3 August 2022 11:09, UK
Oscar Piastri has refuted Alpine's claim that they have signed him for Formula 1 2023 and insists - in a dramatic twist to the sport's transfer 'silly season' - that he will be driving elsewhere instead.
Alpine had said that Piastri, who is currently their reserve driver, was being promoted to replace Fernando Alonso.
The press release had no quotes from Piastri, fuelling talk that the highly-rated Australian had not been consulted.
Hours later on Tuesday evening, Piastri posted on social media to say that Alpine did not have his permission to confirm his signing and, incredibly, that he will not drive for the French outfit who have moulded his career.
"I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year," said Piastri.
"This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year."
There is intense speculation that Piastri will instead drive for McLaren for 2023, with the Woking team having been in contact with the 21-year-old before Alpine knew they had a seat available.
Alpine, however, believe Piastri has a contractual obligation to drive for them next year.
Sky Sports News have been told the deadline for Piastri's clause to be activated and confirm him as an Alpine driver expired two days ago, on July 31 - but this is unconfirmed by Alpine.
Williams and McLaren have been interested in Piastri if the circumstances were right, but only the former can currently make a move for him - with Nicholas Latifi's deal yet to be renewed.
When Alonso's surprising move to Aston Martin was confirmed on Monday, Alpine quickly turned their attention to Piastri.
Earlier on Tuesday morning team boss Otmar Szafnauer admitted there was no agreement, having also revealed he only learned that Alonso would be departing the team at the end of the season when he saw Aston Martin's press release announcing the move on Monday morning.
Soon after, Alpine's announcement said Piastri would drive for them from "2023 onwards" to partner Esteban Ocon.
But Piastri has other plans, and his bombshell represented a remarkable turn of events in the driver market.
Piastri has been part of the Renault junior academy for four years, during which time he has won the Formula Three and Formula Two titles, following in the esteemed footsteps of Charles Leclerc and George Russell.
He missed out on a seat for 2022 and instead became Alpine's reserve driver, although his reputation is such that he seemingly has a number of teams battling for his signature without ever having raced in F1.
Williams are in the hunt, while if Piastri does make the switch to McLaren, that would put Daniel Ricciardo's future in huge doubt.
Ricciardo has underperformed since joining McLaren in 2021 and, while he insists he will see out his contract until the end of 2023, McLaren have hinted of having 'options' to get out early.
If Ricciardo did lose his seat, he could make an unexpected return to the Renault family. Ricciardo joined McLaren from Renault, before the team took the name of niche performance sub-brand Alpine.
Sky Sports' Paul Di Resta was shocked by the news Piastri would not drive for Alpine and admitted he had not even heard any rumours of Alonso leaving the team.
"It is very odd. I think the whole paddock was caught by surprise yesterday going into summer break when the silly season starts with driver contracts," said Di Resta.
"Fernando going to Aston, I hadn't heard it anywhere, I don't believe my colleagues had either and it also caught Otmar Szafnauer by surprise.
"That has led on to what has happened obviously with Piastri, who has been an Alpine junior.
"They have been lobbying him, saying how good he is and where that seat is going to come up and even trying to place him within the Formula 1 paddock because he is an asset to them in the future.
"Now, that statement that he has put out, I find it very surprising that he is rejecting a team that is in the top four and a great upward trajectory, that you wouldn't want to drive for them."
With Piastri putting out such a strong statement, Di Resta believes he must have secured a seat with another team for next season because he thought Alonso was staying at Alpine for 2023.
"That can only mean that he has got another seat secured somewhere else," he added.
"Where is he going to be driving? Is it McLaren? Is it Williams? Where does that leave Daniel Ricciardo?
"You have got this junior who is so highly rated on the back of what he has done in the junior categories and to sit him on the sidelines and now have him racing and invest all this testing in various different circuits.
"Putting him in a car was what Alpine wanted but obviously he feels he is going to be driving somewhere else.
"He has obviously taken that decision thinking Alonso was staying and it did feel like he was part of the furniture and it was going to be the obvious thing that he continued to go on.
"I felt he was going to be loaned to another team, maybe a Williams to bring him along like George Russell was and I could see that was a path and the future was bright.
"He is going to be a credit to the sport whatever car he is in because his on-track driving does the talking and he is going to be an asset to the Formula 1 paddock and driver market. It is just about where he is going to be placed now. We are all sitting on the fence."