Following the dramatic turn of events that unfolded on Tuesday when Alpine officially announced Oscar Piastri as its driver, and the young Australian came out to deny the official announcement and turn down the seat that is now vacant after Fernando Alonso's departure to Aston Martin, Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal of the French team, spoke to motorsport.com on this summer break’s hot topic and assured that, despite having already made a couple of calls with drivers who could be an option, the team hopes to retain Piastri for 2023.
With his current questionable results and driving form, Daniel Ricciardo is making the rounds as a possibility for the former Renault team, for which the Australian raced from 2019 to 2020.
Szafnauer commented on a possible return of the eight-time-race-winning driver and did not close the door on him, comparing his situation to the number of teams Fernando Alonso has left and come back later to, throughout his career.
“I mean, if you look at Fernando, for example, he comes and goes, and I think that happens to other drivers too,” he said.
“And I don't think that's an issue at all. I think what we need to focus on is, like I say, the plans that we have for the next 89-88 races.
“We've got to make sure that we complement that plan with the best driver that we can, and there are some options out there for us. And we put the best driver in next to Esteban [Ocon], so that we can move forward towards what we've been planning.”
Speaking about the 21-year-old Australian, Szafnauer compared him to the situation that World Champion Jenson Button went through when he was still a junior and signed with Williams, becoming embroiled in a legal battle with BAR Honda that ultimately saw the Briton never make it to Frank Williams' team.
“I've been around long enough where I've seen this kind of thing actually play out and happen,” he said.
“When Jenson signed with Williams and ended up at British American Racing Honda, if you remember those days, there was absolutely no issue. I mean, I know Oscar is different from Jenson. Hopefully we don't have to go down that route, anyway.
“But your presumption was, oh, a driver wants to go somewhere else. So hopefully that's not the case. But I have seen it where a driver actually signed with another team incorrectly, so had to drive for the team that he initially signed with.
“And it was absolutely no issue. Jenson at the time did a stellar job at BAR, and never ended up at Williams."