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Alonso move came as a surprise to Alpine

NEWS STORY
03/08/2022

Alpine boss, Otmar Szafnauer has revealed that first he knew of Fernando Alonso's shock switch to Aston Martin for 2023 was when he read the press release.

Coming a week after the two-time world champion claimed that remaining with Alpine was a "priority", Monday's press release from Aston Martin came as much of a shock to the French team as the rest of us.

"It was the first confirmation I had," Szafnauer admitted to reporters on a Zoom call.

"Obviously, when we're in the paddock, there's all sorts of rumours, and I had heard rumours that Aston were interested," he continued. "Once you hear that they're interested, there's probably discussions that took place.

"But I was confident that, even with the discussions, and there's nothing wrong with exploring, that we were very close.

"So yes, the first confirmation I had was the press release," he admitted. I did ask the question (to the Spaniar), and I was told: 'No, no, I haven't signed anything'. So I was a bit surprised.

"We offered a one plus one deal," he revealed, meaning that in addition to 2023, there would be an option for 2024 also, "and we discussed with Fernando that: 'Look, if next year at this time you're performing at the same level, of course, we will take you and that could have carried on'.

"But I think he wanted more certainty independent of performance," said Szafnauer. "'I want to stay for longer', and I think that was the crux of the going one plus one as opposed to two plus one or three plus one or three years."

This explains that lack of any announcement regarding Oscar Piastri from the French team, most of us under the impression that Alonso had effectively jumped before being pushed.

However, adding to the intrigue is talk that Piastri's management, which includes Mark Webber, is in no rush to take the second Alpine seat and is instead eyeing Daniel Ricciardo's seat at McLaren.

"Oscar and his camp are considering their options, whatever that means," said Szafnauer. "I've been trying to get hold of Mark and wrote some text messages and some emails to him, as well.

"If everyone is true to the agreements that they signed back only a few months ago, we should be able to move forward with the agreements that we have in place," said Szafnauer.

Since winning the F2 title last year, Piastri has completed over 2000 miles of testing for Alpine, and other than further tests is also set to make his FP1 debut at Spa.

Confirming that there has been a "significant amount of investment" in the Australian, Szafnauer adds: "It's more than just a financial investment, it's also an emotional one and getting him ready for what we hope is a successful Formula 1 career.

"Not every Formula 1 team does that for an academy driver that's come through, but we've chosen to do that to get him ready. And we've only done that with a view of having him race here in the future. We wouldn't have done that if the view was to get him prepared for one of our competitors.

"We need to now progress this," he admitted. "This only happened yesterday. It's now Tuesday, so we will sit down and then progress what our future driver line-up's going to be. I would imagine the choices are different now."

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