Oscar Piastri rejects Alpine, eyes future with McLaren

Oscar Piastri has been an Alpine Academy driver for four years. Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Australian driver Oscar Piastri dropped a bombshell that he will not race for Alpine in Formula One next season, just over an hour after the team said he would replace Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso.

Piastri, the reigning Formula 2 champion, has been part of Alpine's driver academy for four years, but has other plans for his future.

In a remarkable turn of events in F1's driver market, Piastri tweeted: "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."

Multiple sources have told ESPN that Piastri has signed a pre-contract deal with McLaren, Alpine's direct rival for fourth in this year's constructors' championship.

Although the exact terms of that deal are unclear, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo contracted to race for the team next season, Piastri's tweet is a clear indication that he sees his future with McLaren and not Alpine.

McLaren appears to be banking on the fact it can move on from Ricciardo, who has a watertight contract until the end of 2023.

Ricciardo recently reaffirmed his commitment to seeing out that contract and rectifying the poor run of form which prompted McLaren CEO Zak Brown to look at other options.

McLaren has also recently added IndyCar's Colton Herta, Pato O'Ward and Alex Palou to its stable of drivers.

McLaren do not have options in Ricciardo's contract to terminate the deal, but the eight-time race winner does have exit clauses on his side, and he may well see a return to Alpine -- where he raced when it was called Renault between 2019 and 2020 -- as a viable option if McLaren has settled on Piastri.

Although a legal battle is likely to follow, Alpine faces the prospect of losing a two-time world champion and a driver many see as a future world champion in the space of 48 hours.

That will be especially painful in regards to Piastri. If the Australian is successful in going to McLaren, Alpine will lose the significant investment it has made in Piastri's career, which included a 5,000km testing programme of F1 machinery, which is ongoing.

On Monday, Alonso blindsided Alpine by signing a multiyear deal to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin, despite telling the team in the build-up to and in the hours after the Hungarian Grand Prix that he intended to sign a contract extension with the team for 2023 which included an option for 2024.

Alpine's desire to keep Alonso for at least one more contract is what convinced Piastri and his manager, ex-Red Bull driver Mark Webber, to explore other options.

Team boss Otmar Szafnauer found out about Alonso's decision by the press release Aston Martin sent out on Monday morning.

According to Szafnauer, he has not been able to get hold of Alonso since as the Spaniard is holidaying on a yacht in the Greek islands.

The saga around Piastri looks set to be the second driver contract dispute McLaren is about to enter into, having recently signed Alex Palou to its IndyCar team despite Chip Ganassi saying that he is contracted to race for them next year.