Part One: Franz Tost, Jost Capito and Otmar Szafnauer.
Otmar, perhaps we could start with you please. First up, please can we get your reaction to yesterday's news from the Contract Recognition Board?
Otmar Szafnauer: Well, we want to thank the Contract Recognition Board first and foremost for convening and listening to both sides of the argument. They did a thorough and competent job and the process works. And we accept their decision. Apart from that, the rest of it, by Concorde Agreement, is confidential. So, all the pleadings are meant to be held confidential and I will abide by that confidentiality and not talk further about pleadings on both sides.
You say you accept their decision - but were you surprised by their decision?
OS: Well, going into it, I didn't know all the arguments on the other side. Thereafter, I mean, it took four days, as everybody knows. You know, there are good arguments on both sides and walking out, I thought it was about 50-50. As it turned out, they didn't rule in our favour. So after, no, I would have accepted either way.
Will Oscar Piastri remain an Alpine employee until the end of this year?
OS: While he's with us this weekend, doing simulator work, and that will be decided on... he'll continue this weekend. There's only a couple days left, today and rain tomorrow, and then on Monday, we'll get together with him and decide how to go forward.
Would you consider an early release to McLaren?
OS: We'll decide on Monday. I don't want to think about it here because there's more considerations to be had.
So, you now need a new driver in 2023. What type of a driver are you looking for? To place alongside Esteban Ocon?
OS: I think we're fortunate that we have great demand for our seat. So, we're going to take a bit of time and, and consider, but you know, it's like anyone: you want the fastest driver that you can get, one with experience, consistency and speed. So, we will be looking at who's available to fulfil that role.
Jost, we'll come to you now. And while we're talking about Oscar Piastri, did you talk to him about a seat in 2023?
Jost Capito: We talked to a couple of drivers for '23, so we had a couple of options. And of course, Oscar could have been an option. But that was an early stage of the season, just to check out what kind of options are available for '23.
And where does this leave Nicholas Latifi? What does he need to do to retain his seat at Williams next year?
JC: That's within us. And I don't disclose that here.
But what would you like to see him do in terms of... do you want to see greater consistency? Or can you give us any insight into the direction of travel for him?
JC: I think he has to show his potential. I believe he has the potential. What he's shown from Silverstone and Hungary. It was great there, last week wasn't that good, so he's got another chance this week to prove what he's capable of.
Now talking of last week, Spa was a fantastic performance by Alex Albon. Would you say it was Alex's best drive for you so far?
JC: Australia was also a fantastic drive this year. So, I think all his races are really good but he said that was one of his best races, and one of the longest - but it was absolutely outstanding what he achieved last weekend.
And what about this weekend? Is it one to be got through and you kind of have half an eye on Monza next weekend? Do you think that will suit the car better than Zandvoort?
JC: Yeah, definitely. So, Zandvoort, it's just gets through it, and try the very best - but without big hopes.
Franz, we'll come to you now, and while we're talking drivers, in Canada, you told us that Pierre Gasly would definitely be an AlphaTauri driver in 2023. Is that still the case?
Franz Tost: Yes, he has a contract with Scuderia AlphaTauri.
Would you release him to another team?
FT: This decision from Red Bull.
So, as things stand, it's Gasly and Tsunoda for you in 2023?
FT: At this moment, yes.
Why don't we talk about the car then Franz. It's been a season of fluctuating fortunes for you. How would you describe the performance of your car? Why is it so up and down?
FT: We are struggling on tracks with mid-speed corners, like Budapest, like here in Zandvoort, where the car is too unstable under braking and under steering in the apex, wash-out understeering and therefore the lap-time is not coming together. The car is much better in high-speed corners, like it was in Spa and hopefully it will be in Monza and I hope that the engineers will find a reasonably good set-up that at least one car is in Qualifying Three today.
Questions From The Floor
(Scott Mitchell - The Race) Otmar, when it came to announcing Oscar initially as a driver for 2023, Oscar says that you and the team were aware of his intentions way before then. He said that he had spoken to you, reminded you of what he wanted to do. So why did you continue to go down that path? Because Oscar says that that denied him the chance to basically leave the team the way he wanted and not say goodbye?
OS: Well, at that point, we're having discussions with Oscar. And we were under the impression that the contractual arrangements we had with Oscar were valid. We didn't have the CRB yet, so that's a reason for it.
(Luke Smith - Autosport) Otmar, following up on that, Oscar has spoken about the announcement. You spoke last week about when you told him in the simulator, he's talking about that now and said that he found it quite upsetting that it was done publicly, called it bizarre episode. A lot has been made of Oscar's alleged lack of loyalty to Alpine - but where was Alpine's loyalty to Oscar?
OS: Our loyalty to Oscar was... we had something called the Heads of Terms and we delivered everything above and beyond what we said we're going to do, including 3500 km in last year's car, making him our reserve driver. When McLaren and Mercedes asked if we could share him as a reserve, because they didn't have one, we allowed him to do that. We paid him. That's our loyalty to Oscar.
(Julien Billotte - AutoHebdo) A question to Otmar again, please. How can an F1 constructor like Alpine managed to lose its top driver prospect, to a direct competitor on top of that, 24 hours after losing a superstar - and how bad is it for Alpine's image?
OS: Well, I mean, we... Fernando was a free agent, so he was able to negotiate with whomever he wanted, and that that happens. We put a contract in front of Fernando, like I said before, that was negotiated for a while to the point where... you know, a deal's got to be good for both sides. We were happy with as far as we could go on the negotiation, and Fernando chose to do something else and that's understandable. With Oscar, as you know, the CRB ruled that the contract he signed with McLaren took precedence - but we only learned that yesterday.
And the point about the image of Alpine Do you think it's damaging?
OS: I think the image of Alpine is based on what happens on track and how we perform. And that's what we're focused on now. We'll do the best we can. Not for just this year, but to continue to improve the team. We're on a recruiting drive. We're spending money on tools. We understand what It takes to compete amongst the Top Three. That's our goal, with a goal of winning a World Championship in five years. We've got to put the rudiments in place for that to happen. And we're in the middle of doing that. So, the best thing for Alpine's image is to win on track, and that's what we're going to try to do.
(Adam Cooper - motorsport.com) Question for Otmar. Obviously this July 4th date for the McLaren contract emerged yesterday. Can you clarify when you found out about it? When did Mark or Oscar tell you what was going on? Did you have any direct contact with McLaren? And secondly, at that time, what was the situation with Williams? Was Oscar walking away from a definite offer to go to Williams? Or was all that also up in the air? Was he thinking he was going to have another year on the sidelines if Fernando stayed?
OS: So as you can imagine, at that point in time, there were some rumours. So, it's not like we were oblivious to it. However, to answer your question, the Fourth of July date was made apparent when we had our submissions to the CRB. So that was a few days ago.
And the Williams situation?
OS: Well, we had discussions. For sure. And, you know, there were, like Jost said, there were many considerations for them, but we were definitely progressing that. It never came to a conclusion, or fruition. So, it's hard to say but there were discussions.
(Christian Menath - motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Otmar. When you lose out on track, you do an analysis where you're weak. I guess it's the same for any company when they lose, not only on track, but off track as well. Where would you say is your weakness? Is it the legal department, is it the leadership of the team - because from the wording that is quite clear that not only the McLaren contract is valid, but you didn't even have a contract with Oscar.
OS: Well, I've been... all this happened in November of last year. So I guess, you know, it's easy to blame people that aren't here anymore. But that's not my style. So, the right thing to do is to have a have a look at what happened, understand where the shortcomings were and fix them for the future.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Zandvoort here.