Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has been made to look “a little silly” by the FIA Contract Recognition Board confirming that Oscar Piastri has a McLaren deal as a result of comments made prior to the decision, according to Zak Brown.
Szafnauer criticized Piastri’s integrity and stated that the Australian needed to remember “what he signed up to” in November of last year as both teams awaited the CRB outcome, which duly ruled Alpine did not have a valid contract with Piastri. The decision explained Alpine had only ever put forward a ‘Head of Terms’ – a negotiating point – outlining its plans and didn’t follow through with a contract for a number of months, creating an opening for Piastri to sign for McLaren.
While Brown and McLaren weathered criticism as it became clear it had signed Piastri to replace Daniel Ricciardo, he says he purposely decided not to say too much before the CRB decision was made and believes prior comments do not reflect well on Alpine.
“I think before people saw the CRB ruling, they didn’t know what they didn’t know, and we kept our mouth shut deliberately,” Brown said. “Now that that ruling’s come out in some good detail, I think it’s clear what happened there.
“So we always felt that… We obviously recognized there was a lot of noise, but we knew the truth would come out eventually and we just needed to kind of ride it out as opposed to giving a running commentary.
“So at the time I was not oblivious to the noise and some of the direct message notes that I got from fans. But now we’re very comfortable that the CRBs come out, that that’s very clear there. And I’m sure that (the Alex Palou situation) will be resolved shortly.
“There were just two totally separate issues that unfortunately came together at the same time. So it was very noisy. But we really haven’t commented on anything over here (in IndyCar), either. I think it’s better to just let things play out and we can give a little bit of color afterwards.
“If you look at all of Otmar’s comments, he was giving the play-by-play on the CRB on how confident they were. And now I think he looks a little silly. So that’s why it’s best to keep your mouth shut, and then you can talk about it after the fact when there’s something concrete to say.”
Piastri remains under contract with Alpine until the end of 2022, at which point he can join McLaren, but Brown would like to use the 22-year-old in FP1 sessions if an agreement can be reached for his early release.
“Ultimately Andreas (Seidl) will make that decision. We don’t have total clarity yet because Oscar’s still under contract for ’22. We’re still developing the car, so we’re unlikely to want to put a rookie in when we’re still throwing bits on the car. So obviously it would be the later half of the year, because only six races left, we’re undecided on whether it’s one driver, two drivers and which one or ones. I think we will know that in a couple weeks.”