The departure of Fernando Alonso from Alpine to Aston Martin was quite a surprise in the Formula 1 paddock, and everything seemed to indicate that the Spaniard would renew with the French team, but the morning after the Hungarian Grand Prix the signing.
The gap caused by the departure of the two-time Spanish champion was finally going to be filled by Oscar Piastri , the young Australian who is the protégé of the Enstone academy. Thus, the last Formula 2 champion would have been present on the grid of the highest category from the 2023 season, as confirmed by the French team in a statement.
“The BWT Alpine F1 Team confirms the 21-year-old reserve driver, Oscar Piastri, as Esteban Ocon’s partner from 2023. In line with the commitments made by the team with the young Australian, Oscar will be promoted to regular driver and will occupy Fernando Alonso’s seat from next year,” explained Alpine.
“Oscar has been a valued member of the Alpine family for the past four years,” the team continued. “The Melbourne native joined the Alpine Academy following his victory in the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2019. With the support and guidance of the Academy, Oscar went on to win the Formula 3 Championship in 2020, before claiming an unprecedented title consecutively by winning in Formula 2 in 2021”.
“In this way, he became the third driver to win consecutive drivers’ championships in Formula 2 and Formula 3, after Charles Leclerc and George Russell,” the Enstone team said to defend their move.
“As part of his F1 training, Oscar first became Alpine’s reserve driver at the start of the 2022 season, and has since undergone, under the guidance of the team and its financial support, a program of Intensive and comprehensive training from private testing on the race-winning A521, the 2021 car, in-race support and simulator sessions to prepare you for the next big step in F1.”
For his part, team principal Otmar Szafnauer said: “Oscar is a brilliant and rare talent, we are proud to have nurtured and helped him through the difficult paths of the lower categories.”
“Through our collaboration over the last four years, we have seen him develop and mature into a driver capable of making the step up to Formula 1,” the American continued. “As our reserve driver, he has seen the team on the track, in the factory and in testing, where he has shown the maturity, promise and speed to secure his promotion to our second seat, alongside Esteban.”
“Together, we believe the duo will give us the continuity we need to achieve our long-term goal of fighting for wins and championships,” said Alpine’s CEO.
Interestingly, Alpine’s statement announcing Piastri’s arrival did not include any word from the Australian himself, further fueling theories that the matter may not be as settled as it seemed.
Szafnauer had explained that the team had not reached an immediate agreement with the driver because Piastri was exploring the market: “Oscar and his people are considering their options, whatever they may be.”
When the subject was put on the table, the American said that, with the contractual agreements that his team had with the Australian, they had no doubt that he could be available: “What I know is that he has obligations with us, and we with him, something we have accomplished throughout the year”.
“The mandatory runs until 2023, and possibly 2024, if a few things are accepted. We needed to have him as a reserve driver, to also put him in last year’s car for a significant amount of time,” he continued.
“We have more than half of that program of 5,000 kilometers, which is not little, in the car from last season to have it ready to compete next year,” he said. “Therefore we have a legal contract with him in the future for 2023, and if the option is carried out, for 2024. So I don’t know what he has done with McLaren, as I have said, I am not aware. so much of it.”