McLaren and Alpine are separated by just four points in the Formula 1 constructor stanings, and the Oscar Piastri debacle has intensified the rivalry.
The 2022 Formula 1 season has so far been underwhelming in the eyes of the McLaren faithful. Daniel Ricciardo hasn’t turned out to be the competitive driver of past seasons with Red Bull and Renault, Lando Norris has shown frustration with the MCL36, and the car has struggled to be even remotely competitive with the big three teams of Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes.
Conversely, Alpine‘s season has been quite a success. Both drivers have finished in the points in seven races, Fernando Alonso shockingly qualified second in Montreal, and the car has shown glimpses of surprising speed despite still trailing behind the top three teams.
Such is the fact that Alpine sit four points above McLaren at fourth place in the constructor standings, 99-95, setting up one of the closest team matchups to watch following the summer break. The two teams view each other as the main threat on race weekends, and the performance of the cars is similar.
And while it is practically impossible for either team to move into third place, the stakes couldn’t be any higher.
The difference between finishing fourth and fifth place in the standings can be millions of dollars. However, there could be a bigger prize on the line for the victor: the commitment of Oscar Piastri, the talented young Australian who is set to join Formula 1 next year, but has yet to sign a contract with any team.
On Tuesday, Alpine announced on Twitter that Piastri would be promoted to their vacant seat next season. Piastri, in response to the announcement, shot down the statement and said that he had not signed a contract with Alpine for the 2023 season. He also stated that he would not be racing with the team next year.
The tweet, which garnered hundreds of thousands of likes and thousands of comments, turned the Formula 1 world upside down. It also left Alpine scrambling for another option to fill the seat left open by Alonso, who announced his move to Aston Martin following Sebastian Vettel’s retirement.
The response by Piastri led many to speculate that he had been in discussions with McLaren to take over Ricciardo’s seat. Ricciardo, whose contract runs through the 2023 season, had reached a mutual agreement with team boss Zak Brown to stay for next season. If Piastri is truly interested in a seat at McLaren, then Ricciardo will be forced to move on next year.
So could McLaren truly swipe Piastri from Alpine? Or will the French team still be able to woo the 2021 Formula 2 champion?
While the true motive for Piastri saying he won’t be with Alpine next season is unknown, Alpine will certainly view it as a slap in the face if McLaren snatch him away. Interestingly, Ricciardo could have the opportunity to make a move back to Alpine, should he lose his current seat to the younger Australian.
If Alpine want any shot at convincing Piastri to sign with them for 2023, the least they need to do is prove to the world that they are capable of beating McLaren in the constructor standings.
The last time Alpine bested McLaren was in 2018, back when the team was still known as Renault. A fourth year in a row with McLaren ahead would almost certainly crush any desire Piastri has of signing with Alpine.
The pressure is on for both teams to finish the season strong. The one that comes out on top just might be able to alter the future of their team for years to come.