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Oscar Piastri standoff turns ugly as Alpine chief slams star for lack of loyalty

Alpine chief Otmar Szafnauer was blunt in saying he "expected more loyalty" from wantaway racer Oscar Piastri.

The young Australian is seen as a future star of Formula 1 after winning the F2 championship to secure three world championships in a row in feeder series. But it wasn't enough to earn him a place in the premier category in 2022, as he instead had to settle for the reserve driver job at Alpine.

Piastri has been a member of the French team's young driver programme for several years. Alpine invested heavily in his development, and were priming him for a seat in the future – a plan accelerated by Fernando Alonso's impending departure for Aston Martin.

The Spaniard's move prompted Alpine to announce Piastri would race for them in 2023, but not long after the driver himself declined that he had accepted the seat. Instead, his manager Mark Webber has been in negotiations with McLaren, where he could take over from the struggling Daniel Ricciardo.

Speaking to El Confidencial, Szafnauer said: "We have a contract with Piastri, which he signed in November. We have spoken to our lawyers and they have told us that this is a binding contract, so part of that contract allows us to put Oscar in one of our cars in 2023, which is the reason we issued the press release.

"There is also an option for 2024 and the possibility for us to 'loan' the driver to another team. We wanted Fernando with us for one more year and then a loan of Oscar for 2023. I have always said in all my press conferences that Piastri would be in Formula 1 in 2023 and it is because I knew he could be in our car or in another car, on loan, if Fernando had stayed.

"But Alonso, for whatever reason – and I think I know the reasons, although you should ask him – he goes to Aston Martin. So, we started to finalise the agreement with Piastri, and instead of giving him away, we decided to put him in our car. Hence, the statement."

Oscar Piastri denied Alpine's claim that they had signed him for the 2023 season (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Expressing his disappointment in his reserve driver's response, he added: "I expected more loyalty from Piastri. He should have it with that team that has taken care of him, that has taken him to the world championship and, above all, that during the last year has put him in a Formula 1 car so that he would be ready, so that he would know the circuits.

"I expected more loyalty from Oscar than he is showing. I started in 1989 in Formula 1 and I've never seen anything like this. And it's not about Formula 1, it's about integrity as a human being. It could happen in ice hockey or soccer, it doesn't matter. But you don't do that. He signed a piece of paper, a document, saying he would do something different.

"There should be some loyalty to the fact that we have invested literally millions and millions of euros to prepare him. So I don't understand it either, you should ask him. If Piastri is not in the car – which I think he is going to be – because Fernando is out, I have about 14 phone calls from drivers who are interested, because the Alpine seat is the most valuable seat left."

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