Alpine confident of keeping Oscar Piastri to replace Fernando Alonso next season in F1

Alpine keeping Oscar Piastri
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Alpine principal Otmar Szafnauer remains confident that the team will be keeping Oscar Piastri for next season after the matter is decided by a Formula One board.

Alpine is in dispute with its reserve driver Piastri, who said he doesn’t want a promotion to the Alpine seat vacated by Fernando Alonso.

Szafnauer confirmed Friday that Piastri also has signed a contract with McLaren for 2023. The matter will go before F1’s Contract Recognition Board (CRB) next week.

“What we’re doing to retain him is going to the CRB on Monday and we’ll have the CRB decide which contract that Oscar signed takes precedence. Once we have that ruling we’ll look forward and see how we go,” Szafnauer said Saturday. “I’ve seen both sides of the argument and we’re confident that Oscar signed with us back in November. There are certain things that need to be in the contract and I’m confident they are there.”

The case could have ripple effects in the NTT IndyCar Series, where McLaren has a testing contract with Colton Herta and also has signed Alex Palou (who is in a contract dispute with Chip Ganassi Racing that is similar to Piastri’s situation).

The domino effect started at the Hungarian Grand Prix in late July.

First, four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel announced he was retiring at the end of 2022, leaving his Aston Martin seat open. Then, the day after that race, Alonso stunned Alpine by announcing he was joining Aston Martin next year.

Alpine had offered Alonso, 41, a one-year deal with an option for another year, but he accepted Aston Martin’s longer offer.

Then, Alpine said late the next day it was promoting Piastri into Alonso’s seat only for the 21-year-old Piastri to flatly refuse it on Twitter.

“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 tweeted at the time. “This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”

That’s not how Szafnauer sees it.

“His promise to us was to race with us if we put him in our car, so that’s what we’re pursuing,” Szafnauer said. “Going to the CRB is the logical next step when you believe you have a valid contract with the driver and he signed something else.”

If Piastri wins, though, Alpine will need to replace him: possibly with Daniel Ricciardo, who is splitting with McLaren at the end of this year.

But Szafnauer believes history could be on his side.

“This has happened in the past. I just happened to be there when it happened to Jenson Button, when he signed for Williams but BAR Honda rightfully took up their option on Jenson,” he said. “Jenson really wanted to go to Williams, BAR Honda won at the CRB and then had a great relationship with Jenson culminating in a world championship (in 2009).”

Szafnauer said Piastri – whose contract is through 2024 with an option at the end of ’23 – seemed happy when he was told he’d replace Alsonso.

“He happened to be in the simulator and I went and found him and he smiled and was thankful,” Szafnauer said. “So we made the (press) release really quickly.”

Alonso was a free agent when the move happened, meaning the two-time F1 champion was free to talk with Aston Martin and other teams.

“There was paddock rumor on Sunday that it could happen, so not that big of a surprise. The surprising bit was that we went a long way with Fernando in our negotiations with him,” Szafnauer said. “We got to the final hurdle and Fernando indicated that he was ready to sign. The only surprising bit was that it was announced Monday morning, when Sunday night he indicated there was no need to rush.”

Although Szafnauer insists he does not not feel let down by Alonso, he had thought he would stay.

“When I left Fernando on Sunday, he told me `Look, don’t worry we’ve got time. I’m going to be on my boat in Greece over the holiday.’ He invited me for a coffee. He said, `If you’re in Greece come to my boat,’ ” Szafnauer said. “We put in front of him a contract we’d be happy with … Although he wanted a longer deal, he intimated to me that 1+1 was fine.”

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl, who sat alongside Szafnauer at a news conference on Saturday, remains tight-lipped about who will replace Ricciardo.

“I don’t want to comment on any driver names or scenarios,” he said. “It’s something we will address from next week onwards.”

Seidl’s relationship with Ricciardo remains strong enough for them to share beer and a dinner, he said, adding that he felt sad for the Australian driver. Ricciardo won the Italian GP last September for his eighth F1 win but has largely been outperformed by Lando Norris this season and last.

“It wasn’t a secret that despite all the effort on Daniel’s side and our side, despite the huge commitment levels on both sides, we simply didn’t manage to achieve the results we all had in mind,” Seidl said. “It didn’t change anything in terms of the respect for Daniel, in terms of (the) driver he is. But at the same time it was important to have clarity now making our plans for next year.”

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s


After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

Rider Power
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points

The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

Rider Power
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage