Alpine boss aims dig at Oscar Piastri after signing Pierre Gasly

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Otmar Szafnauer has been candid in his criticism of Oscar Piastri since it emerged earlier this year that the youngster would not be making his Formula 1 debut with Alpine. However, the team’s principal believes his outfit may have lucked out in landing Pierre Gasly as an alternative.

Piastri was formerly part of the Renault (now Alpine) academy programme and tested for Alpine throughout 2022. However, he was also made available to McLaren as a reserve driver, with Alpine under the impression the 21-year-old was contracted to drive for them in 2023.

Instead, McLaren exploited every avenue to lure Piastri as a replacement for Daniel Ricciardo, having taken the decision to terminate the latter’s contract one year early. Gasly was in turn signed from AlphaTauri on a multi-year deal as a replacement for the departed Fernando Alonso (now at Aston Martin), a turn of events Szafnauer said could work in Alpine’s favour.

“Thinking that Oscar had a contract with us and the Contract Recognition Board saying something different was a process we had to go through,” the Alpine boss told Motorsport.com. “We had to go to the CRB and then get a resolution. You know, that’s life, that’s why you have bodies that judge in if two sides think differently.

“Look, let’s see how we do next year. I’m happy that our driving pairing with Esteban [Ocon] and Pierre is better than it would have been if we had won that case. [Gasly is] more experienced, still young. And time will tell, but I think faster.”

Gasly, 26, outperformed team-mate Yuki Tsunoda during the 2022 season and finished 14th in the driver standings with 23 points. The Frenchman finished the campaign in disappointing fashion but managed six top-10 finishes, including an impressive run to fifth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

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Piastri enters F1’s ranks in earnest having won three championships in as many seasons prior to his arrival. The Australian clinched the Formula Renault Eurocup title in 2019, then finished atop the Formula 3 and Formula 2 tables in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

For all that promise, however, his quality among the senior ranks is still unknown, and Szafnauer hopes experience will prove a key advantage for Gasly in his Alpine debut. The Enstone-based outfit finished just ahead of McLaren in this season’s constructor championship, and their rivalry is destined to have a good deal of added spice in 2023.

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