Oscar Piastre initially didn’t have a guaranteed seat in the 2023 Formula 1 race with McLaren when he signed his contract in early July, The Race understands.
Piastre has agreed a multi-year deal to join McLaren instead of staying at the Alpine stable next year.
Alpine thought it had a Piastri on contract for 2023 with an option for 2024 as well and wanted to put its reserve driver on loan at Williams before eventually promoting him to the staff.
The Formula 1 Contract Recognition Board decided on Friday that only McLaren has a valid contract for Piastri services next year, revealing that this was signed on July 4.
That was seven weeks before McLaren announced the early termination of Daniel Ricciardo’s contract, and Ricciardo later admitted he didn’t know the Piastre deal had taken place at the time.
Indeed, just a week after Piastre signed a contract with McLaren, Ricciardo publicly insisted on social media that he is “committed to McLaren until the end of next year”.
“Obviously we don’t go into the details of what was in the contract we signed with Oscar,” said McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl.
Regarding Daniel, as we talked about last week, I think throughout this year, Zack [Brown, McLaren Racing CEO] Daniel and I had an open and transparent dialogue whenever and wherever we were.
“So, there is no problem in that aspect.”
The Race understands that the comment about not going into detail about Piastri’s contract points to the fact that he has not explicitly signed off on a race seat for 2023, even if that is McLaren’s ultimate wish and intentions.
The Piastre deal, which covers at least 2023 and 2024, is believed to have flexibility depending on whether Ricciardo concludes his full three-year contract.
Understandably, Piastre knew there was a chance to be McLaren’s reserve driver in 2023 before taking the racing seat in 2024.
This allowed McLaren to secure a contract with Paestre and then allow time to discuss its plans for 2023 with Ricciardo – who is understood to have at least been aware of McLaren’s interest in Paestre when the contract was signed in early July.
Once the early termination of Ricciardo’s contract was agreed upon, McLaren knew Piastri could replace him.
“For us, frankly, it was quite straightforward,” Seidl said of ensuring that Biastri was on board.
“There are two things you need to have if you want to have a driver drive you in Formula 1, which is a contract, and to register with the contract recognition board.
This is what we set out in July. Thus, our plan was clear.”
Another element of this saga that drew criticism of Bestre was the accusation by Albin that he should have shown more integrity.
It has been suggested that Piastri acted inappropriately by chasing away from the Alps and especially his public rejection of the team’s claim that he will be a 2023 driver.
That came on Tuesday after the Hungarian Grand Prix, following the news that Fernando Alonso – whom Albin had predicted to keep for 2023 – would surprisingly switch to Aston Martin.
Alpine announced Piastri as the 2023 driver on Tuesday afternoon after hinting Tuesday morning that there were doubts about what he wanted to do.
The Race understands that by this time Piastri had made his intentions clear to the team – and it has been suggested that Alpine knew what Piastri wanted to do before announcing Alonso’s Aston Martin deal on Monday.
The implication is that Piastre didn’t hide his McLaren deal, or at least his desire to move there, from the Alps.
But it is possible that Albin persevered with this declaration because she firmly believed that she had a binding agreement with Piastre for 2023 and wanted to confirm her position.
This meant that the controversy became a public strife and prompted Piastre to issue a public rejection of the Alpine Manifesto, which Piastre did not expect to issue, because his camp did not want the Declaration to go unchallenged.
In addition to Alpine apparently being aware of Piastri’s intentions, Alpine was also responsible for not having a previous Piastri contract with the team.
As revealed by RacingNews365, Alpine only operated on a “header of terms” agreement until 2022 after constantly delaying contract transmissions which Piastri manager, Mark Webber, chased regularly.
Biastri hasn’t signed anything, certainly not for 2023, but Alpine thought the “terms sheet” set out last November constituted a binding agreement.
That conflict of opinion ultimately led to this week’s CRB hearing, in which McLaren had full confidence in its victory because Seidl said the Piastre management had been “very transparent” through the entire process.
“It’s clear that signing a driver at the end is the result of several conversations,” Seidl said.
“Obviously for people like us when you have the opportunity to sign a guy like Oscar, as quickly as he shows his character, you want to get him.
“He was a free agent and that’s why we discussed a contract contract with him. That’s pretty much that.
“It’s obviously my job, along with Zach, in any scenario to be familiar with the drivers market, the contractual position of all the drivers on the track as well, the entry-level contract position in F2 or in the other classes, which is a natural process.
“It is also our responsibility. That is what ultimately led to the signing of Oscar Piastre.”
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