There’s now another major motorsports contract saga. And this time it’s in Formula 1.
Alpine said Tuesday that reserve driver Oscar Piastri would take over for Fernando Alonso in 2023. Alonso said Monday that he would drive for Aston Martin and replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel.
2023 driver line-up confirmed: Esteban Ocon 🤝 Oscar Piastri
After four years as part of the Renault and Alpine family, Reserve Driver Oscar Piastri is promoted to a race seat alongside Esteban Ocon starting from 2023. pic.twitter.com/4Fvy0kaPn7
— BWT Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) August 2, 2022
The announcement from Alpine didn’t have any quotes from Piastri. That was unusual. And Piastri tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the release was incorrect and that he wouldn’t be driving for the team in 2022.
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.
— Oscar Piastri (@OscarPiastri) August 2, 2022
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Chip Ganassi Racing announced just weeks ago that it was exercising its 2023 contract option to keep reigning IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou with the team. Hours after Ganassi’s announcement — an announcement that included a quote from Palou — Palou said it was incorrect and that he wouldn’t be with the team next season.
The common thread between Piastri and Palou could be McLaren. Shortly after Palou’s announcement, McLaren said that it had signed him to a deal for 2023 and beyond. And Piastri has been rumored to be a contender for a seat at McLaren next season alongside Lando Norris, though no official statement from the team has been made.
Palou made the move to McLaren to have a chance at racing in Formula 1, though if Piastri joins the team it’s hard to see where that chance would come from. Lando Norris is locked in at McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo’s contract is through 2023. If Piastri was to join McLaren, it would ostensibly be because the team found an out in its deal with Ricciardo.
Palou has remained in his No. 10 car at CGR since the McLaren announcement and appears to be set for the rest of the season despite a pending lawsuit. Ganassi has sued Palou alleging a breach of contract. And while the team could move to get Palou out of the seat, it reasons that removing him from the car would be a breach of contract on the team’s part. That probably wouldn’t be a wise move as the plaintiff in a breach of contract suit.
Will the Piastri situation with Alpine head to court? It sure doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility if and when he announces where he’ll be racing next season. We like Formula 1 writer Joe Saward's crazy idea for 2023 to placate all of the parties involved in this situation. McLaren also has a 2023 contract for current IndyCar driver Felix Rosenqvist, though it made clear in its announcement of Rosenqvist's extension that he could either remain in IndyCar or head to Formula E.
One imaginative solution (which perhaps McLaren had thought about) is for McLaren to offer Ganassi Ricciardo in place of Palou, particularly if McLaren agreed to pay him a suitable salary. This would put Daniel into a top IndyCar drive, would leave McLaren with enough to pay Piastri and Palou racing IndyCars and secure two hot talents at the same time. Rosenqvist would then be shunted into Formula E.