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“I expected more loyalty from Piastri,” says Szafnauer

“It’s not about Formula 1, it’s about integrity as a human being,” says Alpine boss, Otmar Szafnauer who admits that in his thirty-plus years in F1 he has never experienced anything like the current situation.

While F1 is now in its mandatory summer break, having shutdown for two weeks until ramping up again in preparation for the Belgian Grand Prix, a number of teams will be kept working throughout… those being the teams of lawyers working on behalf of the various parties caught up in the Oscar Piastri saga.

Speaking to Spain’s, El Confidencial, Szafnauer insists that Alpine’s contract with the Australian is binding, though in all honesty his obvious disgust at how the youngster has handled the situation would appear to rule out any possibility of the parties working together.

“We have a contract with Piastri, which he signed in November,” says the American. “We have spoken to our lawyers and they have told us that this is a binding contract.

“Part of that contract allows us to put Oscar in one of our cars in 2023, which is the reason we issued the press release,” he adds, referring to last Tuesday’s announcement that was quickly denied by the driver.

“There is also an option for 2024,” he continues, “and the possibility for us to loan the driver to another team. We wanted Fernando with us for one more year and then a loan of Oscar for 2023.

“I have always said in all my press conferences that Piastri would be in Formula 1 in 2023,” he insists, “and it is because I knew he could be in our car or in another car, on loan, if Fernando had stayed. But Alonso, for whatever reason, and I think I know the reasons, although you should ask him, is going to Aston Martin.

“So, we started to finalise the agreement with Piastri, and instead of giving him away, we decided to put him in our car. Hence, the statement.”

Of course, the very fact that the press release didn’t include a quote from the Australian suggested that there was more to it all than appeared… though few expected Piastri to react as swiftly and defiantly.

Asked why Piastri appears to have chosen McLaren over Alpine, Szafnauer’s response is pretty much the same as that to Alonso’s sudden change of heart.

“I think it’s a question for Piastri,” he says, “because I don’t understand it either.

“In our future, in that hundred-race plan we are all working on, I think there is also room for Piastri,” he continues.

“We have supported him. There should be some loyalty to the fact that we have invested literally millions and millions of euros to prepare him. So I don’t understand it either, you should ask him.

“I expected more loyalty from Piastri,” he insists. “He should have it with the team that has taken care of him, that has taken him to the world championship and, above all, that has during the last year put him in a Formula 1 car so that he would be ready, so that he would know the circuits.

“I expected more loyalty from Oscar than he is showing. I started in 1989 in Formula 1 and I’ve never seen anything like this. And it’s not about Formula 1, it’s about integrity as a human being.

“It could happen in ice hockey or soccer, it doesn’t matter. But you don’t do that. He signed a piece of paper, a document, saying he would do something different.

“For me, the way I grew up, I don’t need to sign a piece of paper and then have someone say, ‘You’re lying, because you signed this’. For me, if you say, ‘Hey, help me, I’ll help you tomorrow’, there’s no way I would go back on my word. No way.

“You did everything I asked you to do (from Alpine to Piastri) and now I promise you that if you do this, I will do this. I don’t need a piece of paper where it says, ‘With a clause, I can get out of here’.”

With an eye on those millions of euros invested in the youngster, Szafnauer doesn’t rule out the possibility of Alpine demanding financial compensation.

“We have to take into account that last year we put him in a single-seater and he did 3,500 kilometres,” he says. “We have done seven independent tests with him and this is not cheap at all. The cost of an engine alone is 1,750,000 euros. The mechanics, the team that managed those tests, the flights and travel. We have spent lots and lots of money on Piastri to prepare him for the future. And, if that future is not with us, it is logical and fair that we seek compensation.”

Nonetheless, Daniel Ricciardo aside, Szafnauer insists that there is no lack of drivers keen to sit in the second car alongside Esteban Ocon.

“If Piastri is not in the car, which I think he is going to be, because Fernando is out, I have about 14 phone calls from drivers who are interested, because the Alpine seat is the most valuable seat left.”

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