Oscar Piastri did not initially have a guaranteed Formula 1 racing seat in 2023 with McLaren when he signed his contract in early July, according to The Race.
Piastri has agreed a multi-year deal to join McLaren instead of staying with the Alpine team next year.
Alpine believed they had Piastri under contract for 2023 with an option for 2024 as well and wanted to loan their reserve driver to Williams before eventually promoting him to the works team.
The F1 Contract Recognition Board decided on Friday that only McLaren has a valid contract for Piastri’s services next year, and revealed that it was signed on July 4.
It was seven weeks before McLaren announced the early termination of Daniel Ricciardo’s contract and Ricciardo admitted afterwards that he was unaware Piastri’s deal had been done at the time.
In fact, just a week after Piastri signed a contract with McLaren, Ricciardo publicly insisted on social media that he was “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,” McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said.
“Regarding Daniel, as we communicated last week, I think throughout this year Zak [Brown, McLaren Racing CEO] and myself with Daniel have had an open and transparent dialogue at all times where we both are.
“And therefore, there is no problem in this aspect.”
The Race understands that the comment about not going into details about Piastri’s contract refers to the fact that he was not signed explicitly for a race seat for 2023, even though that was the desire and McLaren’s ultimate intention.
It is believed that Piastri’s deal, which covers at least 2023 and 2024, was flexible depending on whether Ricciardo completed his full three-year contract.
Piastri would have known there was a chance he would be McLaren’s reserve driver in 2023 before taking the race seat in 2024.
This allowed McLaren to get Piastri under contract and then have time to discuss plans for 2023 with Ricciardo – who would have at least been aware of McLaren’s interest in Piastri when the contract was signed in early July. .
Once the early termination of Ricciardo’s contract was agreed, McLaren knew that Piastri could replace him.
“For us, to be honest, it was quite simple,” said Seidl, guaranteeing he had Piastri on board.
“There are two things you need to have in place if you want a driver to drive for you in Formula 1, which is a contract and registration with a contract recognition board.
“That’s what we put in place in July. And therefore, our plan was clear.
Another element of this saga that has drawn criticism, for Piastri, is Alpine’s accusation that he should have shown more integrity.
It has been suggested that Piastri behaved inappropriately in chasing a move away from Alpine and in particular his public rejection of the team’s claim that he would be a 2023 driver.
It came on the Tuesday after the Hungarian Grand Prix, following the announcement that Fernando Alonso – whom Alpine expected to retain for 2023 – would make a shock switch to Aston Martin.
Alpine announced Piastri as the 2023 driver on Tuesday afternoon after hinting on Tuesday morning that there were doubts about what he wanted to do.
The Race understands that by then Piastri had made his intentions clear to the team – and it’s even been suggested that Alpine was aware of what Piastri wanted to do before the Aston Martin contract was signed. Alonso won’t be announced on Monday.
The implication is that Piastri had made no secret of his McLaren deal, or at least his desire to move there, to Alpine.
But Alpine probably persevered with the announcement as it firmly believed it had a binding deal with Piastri for 2023 and wanted to assert its position.
This meant that the dispute became public and prompted Piastri to issue a public rejection of the Alpine Declaration, which Piastri did not expect to be released, as his camp did not want the declaration to go unchallenged.
Along with Alpine apparently being aware of Piastri’s intentions, Alpine was also responsible for the lack of a pre-existing Piastri contract with the team.
As revealed by RacingNews365, Alpine had only operated on a “head of terms” deal until 2022, having consistently delayed dispatching a contract which Piastri manager Mark Webber was regularly pursuing.
Piastri hadn’t signed anything, and certainly not for 2023, but Alpine believed the “terms sheet” outlined the previous November constituted a binding agreement.
That conflict of opinion ultimately led to the CRB hearing this week, a hearing McLaren had full confidence it would win because Seidl said Piastri’s management was “very transparent” throughout the process.
“Obviously signing a driver at the end is the result of many conversations,” Seidl said.
“It’s clear to people like us when you have the opportunity to sign a guy like Oscar, with the speed he’s shown with the personality he is, you want to have him.
“He was a free agent and that’s why we talked to him about doing a contract. That’s about it.
“It’s obviously my job, with Zak, in all scenarios to be aware of what the driver market is, what is also the contractual situation of all the drivers in the paddock, or the contractual situation of the rookies in F2 or other categories, which is a normal process.
“It is also our responsibility. And that’s what ultimately led to the signing of Oscar Piastri.
How McLaren secured their Piastri F1 deal – and what Alpine knew – The Race