Alpine has promoted its highly rated reserve driver Oscar Piastri to replace Fernando Alonso in its Formula 1 team from 2023.
Once Aston Martin revealed the bombshell news that four-time F1 champion Alonso would switch to the team after two years with Alpine, 2021 Formula 2 champion Piastri appeared to be the obvious replacement.
However, it appeared more complicated than first thought – especially when team boss Otmar Szafnauer admitted on Tuesday morning that Piastri’s camp was considering its options, and Piastri was linked with a move to McLaren.
There is no quote from Piastri in the Alpine announcement and when speaking to the media earlier on Tuesday Szafnauer had said it was proving difficult to get in touch with his management.
As Alpine is adamant it has a contractual option on Piastri for 2023 and 2024, it is possible it has unilaterally activated that option and informed Piastri and his management of that decision, leading to an announcement within seven hours of Szafnauer having hinted at doubts.
Alpine has long stated its intention to help Piastri get onto the grid despite its lack of a customer team or space in its senior team.
That was because Esteban Ocon had signed a long-term deal until the end of 2024 while it was believed Alonso would re-sign for at least another year if not two.
Initially, it appeared Piastri’s chance might come at Williams where he’d replace Nicholas Latifi for 2023.
But after Alonso’s exit, a space at Alpine alongside Ocon opened for Piastri. And Alpine made it clear it wanted Piastri to take it.
“Oscar is a bright and rare talent,” said Szafnauer in the official announcement. “We are proud to have nurtured and supported him through the difficult pathways of the junior formulae.
“Through our collaboration over the past four years, we have seen him develop and mature into a driver who is more than capable of taking the step up to Formula 1.
“As our reserve driver he has been exposed to the team at the track, factory and testing where he has shown the maturity, promise and speed to ensure his promotion to our second seat alongside Esteban.
“Together, we believe the duo will give us the continuity we need to achieve our long-term goal of challenging for wins and championships.”
After winning Formula Renault Eurocup in 2019, Piastri joined Alpine’s junior academy for the following year when he beat current F1 juniors Theo Pourchaire (Sauber) and Logan Sargeant (Williams) to the FIA F3 title.
Piastri made it three championship wins in a row when he dominated the 2021 Formula 2 season but, despite his impressive hat-trick of titles, he couldn’t break onto the F1 grid for 2022.
Instead, Alpine handed him a reserve role this year that will involve some free practice sessions in the second half of the season.
Piastri already has experience with F1 machinery, having driven Alpine’s 2021 F1 car at the Abu Dhabi post-season rookie test as well as during private tests this year at circuits such as Silverstone and Lusail.
Piastri earning a race seat ensures there will be at least one rookie driver on the 2023 F1 grid with potential vacancies at Haas, Alfa Romeo, Williams and AlphaTauri still to be filled.