Oscar Piastri, the 2021 Formula 2 champion, will join McLaren Racing in Formula 1 for the 2023 season, replacing Daniel Ricciardo, after a Contract Recognition Board (CRB) decision ruled in McLaren’s favour on Friday. Piastri was previously announced to be stepping up to a race seat with Alpine, where he had been a reserve driver in 2022, but the Australian driver refuted the French team’s announcement.
By Michael McClure
The FIA CRB certified the validity of Piastri’s newly signed McLaren contract, citing the expiry of Alpine’s option on the Australian for 2023. Deliberations began on Monday the 29th of August. Participants in the F1 championship are required to accept the rulings of the CRB per the Concorde Agreement.
The CRB decision brought to a close a month of negotiations over Piastri’s future that had become tinged with rancour in recent days, with several F1 team bosses, including Alpine’s Otmar Szafnauer, calling out Piastri for disloyal behaviour.
A long and successful history
Piastri had been a member of the Alpine Academy since before his 2020 FIA Formula 3 Championship season, earning a spot in the programme after winning the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup championship.
Signed to reigning champions Prema Racing, Piastri won a closely fought F3 season in 2020. He then stepped up to F2 with the team in 2021 and took his third consecutive single-seater title in commanding fashion, with four Feature Race wins in the final four rounds.
There were no F1 seats available to Piastri in 2022, so he was announced as the team’s test and reserve driver with an eye to a race seat the following season. However, both of Alpine’s regular drivers, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, were assumed to be staying at the team for 2023, with Ocon’s contract expiring at the end of 2024. Consequently, the Piastri camp and Alpine themselves began to look elsewhere to try to find a 2023 seat for the Australian.
It was under these circumstances that his arrangement with McLaren began. Alpine allowed the Woking team, which had no dedicated reserve driver, to call upon Piastri if they needed someone to substitute for their regular race drivers, Lando Norris and Ricciardo.
How the Alpine saga began
Formula 1’s silly season kicked off 28 July with the announcement that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who drives for Aston Martin, would be retiring from the sport. That opened the door for Alonso to make a shock move to Aston Martin, a decision announced 1 August, the day after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Many presumed Piastri the natural heir to the newly vacant Alpine seat, and the team made an announcement the next day that he would be promoted to a race seat in 2023. The announcement curiously included no quotes from Piastri, who then denied the move with a follow-up post on social media less than two hours later.
“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,” the statement read.
Piastri ‘extremely excited’ to start at McLaren
In a statement published by McLaren on Friday, Piastri expressed his excitement for joining McLaren for his rookie F1 season.
“I’m extremely excited to be making my F1 debut with such a prestigious team as McLaren and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that’s been offered to me. The team has a long tradition of giving young talent a chance, and I’m looking forward to working hard alongside Lando to push the team towards the front of the grid. I’m focused on preparing for my F1 debut in 2023 and starting my F1 career in papaya.”
McLaren CEO Zak Brown praised Piastri’s glittering junior career and his new line-up’s ‘huge amount of potential’.
“Oscar is one of the up-and-coming talents coming through the feeder series into F1 and we are delighted to see him join the team for 2023. Winning both F3 and F2 in successive rookie seasons is a real achievement and testament to his talent in single-seater racing. In Lando and Oscar we have a young, exciting F1 line-up with a huge amount of potential, standing us in good stead to achieve our future ambitions. Oscar is an exciting addition to the McLaren family, and we look forward to seeing him grow with our F1 team.”
Alpine has since published a statement of their own on the CRB decision that means Piastri will not join them for 2023, saying that they ‘consider the matter closed’ and will announce their driver line-up for next season ‘in due course’.
Header image credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd