It’s called the silly season for a reason, but this is just getting stupid.
A dramatic series of events played out in Formula 1 overnight — and at this point nothing has been resolved.
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The circus began when Fernando Alonso stunned Alpine by revealing he was fleeing the team to join Aston Martin, which needed a new driver after Sebastian Vettel’s retirement.
That left Alpine with egg on its face and in an attempt to remove said egg the fourth-ranked outfit announced it was promoting Australian young gun Oscar Piastri to the vacant seat.
Piastri, who has served as Alpine’s reserve driver this season after winning back-to-back F2 and F3 championships, is destined to join the grid in 2023 and appeared to have his future decided when this release was posted just after 2am (AEST).
But less than two hours later Piastri embarrassed Alpine further by rubbishing its claim he had agreed to the promotion.
“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,” Piastri said.
“This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”
The madness kept coming. Shortly after Piastri’s tweet, the BBC quoted an Alpine spokesperson saying: “We believe we are legally correct in our statement but don’t have anything further to say.”
But that’s only half the story.
The other uncomfortable development for Aussie racing fans were reports Piastri is on a collision course with his compatriot Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo last week reaffirmed his commitment to McLaren but has endured the rockiest of times as Lando Norris’ partner in recent years.
It appears Piastri — and his manager, Aussie F1 legend Mark Webber — read the tea leaves and were eyeing off Ricciardo’s seat before they knew Alonso was about to make room at Alpine.
There was even a report that claimed they had a deal in place with the British manufacturer, which will no doubt be tested in court if Alpine believes it breaches its agreement with the 21-year-old from Melbourne.
When asked by Autosport about Piastri’s potential move to McLaren, Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer responded: “I’m not privy to whatever prearrangements he (Webber) has with McLaren, if any at all.
“But I hear the same rumours that you do in the pitlane. But what I do know is that he does have contractual obligations to us. And we do to him. And we’ve been honouring those obligations all year.
“And those obligations, last through ‘23, and possibly in ‘24, if some options are taken up.
“So therefore we do have a legal contract with him into the future for ‘23. And if an option is taken up, for ‘24. So I don’t know what he’s done with McLaren. Like I said, I’m not privy to that.
“Oscar and his camp are considering their options, whatever that means.”
Piastri has been made to bide his time as Alpine’s reserve driver this year, despite winning three consecutive titles in a stellar junior racing career.
F1 commentator Martin Brundle had predicted last month the Aussie would find a way to the 2023 grid.
“Piastri has got to be in F1 next year whatever it is and whatever comes his way he has got to take it,” Brundle said.
“He has to outperform whatever he gets as Mark Webber did at Minardi and (Ayrton) Senna did at Toleman for example.
“It won’t be easy for Oscar but it’s not out of the question.”
There was speculation he could be loaned to Williams as a replacement for underperforming Canadian Nicholas Latifi, but Alonso’s exit has created a domino effect that’s left the only three Aussies to race at the top level since the early 1990s suddenly at odds.