The reigning Formula 2 champion, Oscar Piastri, will make his debut as a regular driver in F1 next season alongside McLaren after leading a major controversy with his contract, which ended with Alpine and the Woking team in court.
The Australian driver worked his way up as part of Alpine’s young driver academy, but McLaren scouts realized the French did not have a valid contract for him to be their first driver in 2023.
That controversy was the main topic of conversation during the summer break, with Christian Horner acknowledging that “something was not right” if Piastri did not have a firm contract with Alpine.
Speaking to Formula 1’s own Beyond the Grid podcast, the Austrian director said it was “difficult” for him to comment on Piastri’s situation, but said his contract would have been unbreakable had the Australian been under the roof of Red Bull, something that was really a possibility during its beginnings in the lower categories.
“He drove for the Arden team in Formula 4 and Formula Renault and obviously stood out as a significant talent ,” explained Horner.
” There was an opportunity for him to join Red Bull , but at that moment we decided not to go for it. What he has achieved after that is phenomenal, in Formula 3 and Formula 2.
“But if it had been in our academy, I can assure you that it would have been under lock and key and no one would have taken it away from us. But like I said before, I wasn’t a part of it, so it’s hard to judge what was promised, broken, etc”.
“But yeah, it was unexpected, probably from both points of view.”
Piastri raced for Arden, the junior team that was founded by Horner himself, in British F4 and the Formula Renault Eurocup during 2017 and 2018. And finally, he joined the Renault academy in early 2020, before conquering form consecutive F3 and F2 championships.
Horner explained that Fernando Alonso’s surprising decision to leave Alpine for Aston Martin “created a shock wave that spread across numerous seats, including the cars of Red Bull’s little brother AlphaTauri.
After losing the lawsuit over Oscar Piastri’s contract, Alpine set its sights on current Faenza team driver Pierre Gasly.
However, at Red Bull they assured that they would not let the French driver out if they did not find a guaranteed substitute beforehand. The main plan of the Austrian structure was to sign IndyCar star Colton Herta, but after being rejected by the FIA because the American did not have the minimum points required, it now seems that Nyck De Vries is the name main one on the table in Milton Keynes.
It seems quite obvious that Red Bull is not considering any of its young drivers, but the Austrian team principal says that the Red Bull academy is still very active and that there is full confidence in all of its drivers.
“We continue to invest in the youth, we have some drivers who are very good within the programme, from karts to Formula 4 onwards,” said Horner.
“I think it’s something that Red Bull has always done very well, investing in them and giving the younger guys an opportunity that they wouldn’t otherwise have had.”
“Isack Hadjar, in Formula 3, this year has had a great season in what was his debut. I think Ayumu Iwasa in Formula 2 has also been one of the most outstanding. They are just two of the guys who there is in the program”.
“Liam Lawson has had a tough year but we still think he is a great talent. Dennis Hauger’s performance has been a bit disappointing this year in Formula 2, especially after his dominance in Formula 3. But we don’t know how much It’s his fault and how much of the team”.