Perhaps the most expected driver announcement in a string of surprises regarding the 2023 Formula 1 grid was that F2 champion Oscar Piastri would join Alpine F1 as an official race driver. The team announced the news Tuesday afternoon, but Piastri denied that he had signed a contract in a separate statement he released later that evening.
By Floris Visman and Michael McClure
Piastri has been touted as Alpine’s next big thing ever since he won the Formula 2 title in his rookie year in 2021. There was no place for him on the 2022 grid, but Alpine prevented him from looking elsewhere by giving him a sizeable testing program in last year’s F1 car, something he explained in the F1 Feeder Series Podcast posted below.
Piastri’s name was dropped at Williams as a possible replacement for Nicholas Latifi and just recently as a replacement for the retiring Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin. But that seat was taken by Fernando Alonso in a shock move.
Alpine’s initial announcement
The Australian 21-year-old is one of the most highly regarded youngsters, having won three feeder series titles in a row: Formula Renault Eurocup in 2019, FIA Formula 3 in 2020 and Formula 2 in 2021. Piastri joined the Alpine Academy, then the Renault Sport Academy, ahead of his F3 campaign in 2020.
In the press release posted at 5:11 pm BST announcing Piastri’s promotion, Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer acknowledged Piastri’s growth as a driver and praised the work he had done as the team’s reserve driver in 2022.
“Oscar is a bright and rare talent. We are proud to have nurtured and supported him through the difficult pathways of the junior formulae.
“Through our collaboration over the past four years, we have seen him develop and mature into a driver who is more than capable of taking the step up to Formula 1.
“As our Reserve Driver he has been exposed to the team at the track, factory and testing where he has shown the maturity, promise and speed to ensure his promotion to our second seat alongside Esteban [Ocon].
“Together, we believe the duo will give us the continuity we need to achieve our long-term goal of challenging for wins and championships.”
Alpine’s original announcement did not include a quote from Piastri, who then released a statement on his social media accounts at 7 pm BST denying the signing and hinting that he would be driving for another team in 2023.
“I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year. This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”
Header photo credit: Alpine