The Formula One world is keenly awaiting a verdict on Australian hopeful Oscar Piastri's contract dispute with Alpine, but an unlikely source has shone more light on the lead-up to the furore.
Melbourne-born Piastri was aided to back to back F3 and F2 championships thanks to support from the Alpine junior program, before taking on a role as reserve driver with the team.
Part of that deal with the French manufacturer is believed to have contained an obligation for the team to help Piastri find a seat in F1 for 2023 - whether that was with Alpine themselves or on loan to another team.
The shock defection of Alpine driver Fernando Alonso to rivals Aston Martin seemingly opened the door for Piastri to race alongside Esteban Ocon for the team next season - only for the Aussie to publicly spurn the team, posting on Twitter that he had no contract with the team for 2023 and would not be driving for them.
His statement immediately further fanned rumours fellow Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo would be moved on from McLaren to make way for the young gun - something that eventually came to pass prior to the Belgian GP last weekend.
McLaren and Alpine both believe they have Piastri under contract for next season, however McLaren have yet to publicly announce anything concerning Piastri while his contract with Alpine is reviewed by the F1 contract recognition board, which will deliver a verdict next Monday.
The F1 world was stunned when Piastri publicly rebuffed Alpine on Twitter, however Formula 3 driver Juan Manuel Correa has shed some light on how the events played out.
Correa, who made an inspirational comeback to motorsport after being seriously injured in the crash which claimed the life of fellow driver Anthoine Hubert in 2019, shares a physiotherapist with Piastri and revealed how Alpine could potentially have fumbled their hand with the Aussie star.
“I don’t know how much I should say, the thing is my physio this year is actually Oscar’s full-time physio,” Correa told Sky Sports.
“So, I know quite a bit about it. From my perspective and what is public knowledge, I think it is actually more of Alpine’s fault.
“They were playing a little bit with Oscar and Fernando. They didn’t give Oscar I think what they had promised, and any driver in his position would have done what he did. That’s what I think, from what I know.”
Oscar Piastri's F1 contract verdict coming amid McLaren talks
Many within the F1 world were surprised by Piastri's move to walk away from Alpine, given the team has arguably been the strongest midfield performer of 2022.
Fans were dismayed when Piastri was unable to find a seat on the grid this season after winning the F2 championship handily in 2021, with former champions such as George Russell finding a home in F1 quickly.
Despite the wait, Correa said it was clear Piastri deserved a shot in F1, regardless of which team it would ultimately be with.
“I think the hearing was this morning, but I think he will be racing at McLaren next year,” he said.
“And I hope so for him because he deserves an F1 seat. It was already a shame that he didn’t get a seat immediately last year. So, at least now he will get his chance.”
As for Ricciardo, his F1 future will likely remain in doubt until the end of the season.
A return to Alpine, who he raced for un 2019 and 2020 when the team was known as Renault, could be a logical fit - however the team has also been linked to French driver Pierre Gasly, who currently races for Alpha Tauri.
Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams could all have open seats next season, with Haas team principal Guenther Steiner reportedly speaking with Ricciardo during the F1 summer break.
Ricciardo's finest moment for one of the powerhouse teams came when he won last year's Italian Grand Prix, but that was a rare moment of success during what has been largely two seasons of disappointment for the West Australian.
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl conceded: "There was a contract and it needed mutual agreement to terminate it early, but after discussion with Daniel we felt it was the right thing for both sides to split ways for next year.
"If you look back at the last 18 months of our journey together, Daniel and McLaren, it's clear we haven't achieved the result we wanted, despite highlights like the great win in Monza last year.
"That's why we had a lot of discussions but in the end we had to acknowledge we did not make it work together despite the commitment that was there from Daniel's side and all the effort the team has put in."
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