Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi has hit back at Oscar Piastri’s version of events regarding his move to McLaren, saying his team never told Alpine he was leaving but that they’re better off apart.
Piastri was signed by McLaren in July but became the center of a tug-of-war when Alpine moved to promote him in place of Fernando Alonso at the start of August.
The FIA’s Contract Recognition Board (CRB) ruled that Alpine never had a contract with the Australian rookie, and Piastri stated the team had been told many times that he was leaving before trying to announce him alongside Esteban Ocon, something Rossi disputes having lined up a seat at Williams for 2023 and 2024.
“When the Williams opportunity was about to turn into a concrete deal, so much so that the seat fitting was scheduled, they (Piastri’s management team) said ‘we have a possible opportunity at McLaren,” Rossi told the official Formula 1 website. “It was a bit disappointing. We felt it was a bit strange, because we expected a bit more loyalty considering how much we put in there. He didn’t say he was going to go, he said he had an opportunity.
“Then we saw in July, the sixth I think, that [Daniel] Ricciardo was confirming for the year after. So we thought there is interest, but there might not even be a seat. There was perhaps an opportunity [but] the door is closing, so Oscar is still in play for us. It explains why we decided to promote him – he was reserve and we elevated in the same framework to race driver.
“Otmar saw him, told him, and we announced it. We never knew for a fact he had signed. He never told us. We still believed the Williams seat was a great one, a great opportunity to learn with a bit less pressure – a very good team to learn in, very seasoned, capable of growing talents like George [Russell].
“But we could understand he was attracted by the prospect of a better challenge sporting-wise. We felt when we had the chance to offer him a better seat, I would contend, with us because we are a works team, we felt like we would offer it to him and he would accept it as there was no better option – Ricciardo was staying.
“We acted very logically, in line with our commitment to him. From our perspective, it’s a very linear, simple story. We have been so committed. I don’t think we could have given more to any driver, to be honest.”
While Rossi accepts mistakes were made on Alpine’s side, he also contends – as a detail that wasn’t included in the CRB ruling – that firm contracts were sent to Piastri on multiple occasions but not signed by the driver and his management.
“He never signed any contracts we put to him. We put contracts forward many times. They were never signed. We could not retain him because he didn’t sign a contract with us. We were expecting more loyalty.
“We made some mistakes, we made some legal technical mistakes. We left the door ajar by not forcing him in with a contract that is so tight he couldn’t move.
“Why did we do that? It’s a bit of an oversight because we never thought that when you give so much to someone, when you give them training, a reserve role, a seat in a partner team, he will not take it after being supported for so many years and winning the championship through your support.
“Like George before him, who went to Williams before returning to Mercedes, like Charles [Leclerc] who went to Sauber before returning to Ferrari, like Max [Verstappen] and like Sebastian [Vettel] – they all did a ‘junior’ team before moving up.
“I’m a bit surprised that Oscar thought that first, he was better than Williams. I can understand from a sporting perspective McLaren might be more interesting based on pure on-track results than Williams, but we didn’t expect that after so much support, so much loyalty, they would use that back door to shop around and get what felt like a better contract for them. Those are not the values we exhibited.
“This is how I see the story. Of course, we made mistakes, otherwise we wouldn’t be here talking about the topic, but we feel we stayed very true to our commitment, to our values and to our words to Oscar.
“But I would say things happen for a reason. We’re not sharing the same conceptions of things, and perhaps not sharing the same values, so it’s perhaps better this way, to be parting ways.”