The war of words between Australian driver Oscar Piastri and F1 outfit Alpine has escalated, with Piastri accusing the team of 'falsely' announcing him as part of the team for 2023.
Piastri was formally announced as Daniel Ricciardo's replacement at McLaren from next year onwards last week, putting an end to the long-running speculation surrounding the 21-year-old's F1 future.
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However his debut in motorsport's top flight next year will go down as a controversial one, after Piastri opened up about the 'bizarre and frankly upsetting episode' which saw him take to Twitter to publically distance himself from Alpine's announcement.
Alpine had sought to contest McLaren's contract with Piastri, believing they had the Melbourne-born driver under contract for next year - hence their public announcement of his place with the team.
However Piastri, whose hugely successful junior career was heavily bankrolled by Alpine, began looking at his options when a 'lack of clarity' regarding his future with the team began to set in.
Having won back-to-back championships in Formula 3 and Formula 2, Piastri has been regarded as one of the sport's emerging talents for some time.
The shock departure of Alpine's Fernando Alonso opened the door for Piastri to drive for the team, however by that time Piastri and manager Mark Webber had already been in talks with McLaren.
"The lack of clarity around my future, and ultimately a breakdown in trust, I felt the very attractive offer of McLaren and the positive dealings with them thus far were all reasons why I felt McLaren was where I was best off," said Piastri.
"My decision was made well in advance [of Alonso's departure], which made Alpine's announcement probably even more confusing and upsetting because we had told the team that I wasn't going to continue.
"It was quite upsetting as the announcement was false and it also denied me the opportunity to properly say goodbye to everyone at Enstone (Alpine's UK base)."
Oscar Piastri's feud with Alpine worsens amid F1 contract controversy
Piastri said he had been in the simulator when Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer told him he was going to be announced as an Alpine driver from the 2023 season.
According to Szafnauer, Piastri just "smiled and was thankful."
But Piastri told F1: "That was a bizarre and frankly upsetting episode.
"It was done publicly in front of some members of the team who were oblivious to the situation (regarding his contract talks with McLaren) and I didn't want to cause a scene in front of them.
"Once we were in private, I told Otmar what our position was and what he had been told multiple times before that.
"To have that falsely announced was something my management and I felt we had to correct and there was also potential legal implications if we didn't deny the announcement," added Piastri, who subsequently announced on social media he wouldn't be driving for Alpine.
The Alpine boss hasn't taken Piastri's comments lying down though, with Szafnauer insisting Piastri's version of events was incorrect.
Szafnauer previously criticised Piastri after his Twitter post, saying he had expected more loyalty from the Australian after the significant investment the team had made in his junior career.
“I’ve never lied … and I never will, but what I can tell you is to reiterate what I said before,” he said.
“Was there a group of people there? I can tell you now it was myself [and] the simulator technician — who happened to be in the same room, but if you’ve ever seen a sim, it’s a pretty big room, and there were three of us in that room.
“There wasn’t a group of people, it wasn’t bizarre, and he smiled and said thank you.
“I informed him that the press release was going out and I congratulated him on being an Alpine driver and he smiled and said thank you and offered nothing else.”
Piastri said he had sympathy for Ricciardo, whose future in F1 is uncertain.
"As a fellow Australian, it's unfortunate that of all people on the grid, it's Daniel who I will be replacing," he said.
"Daniel is someone who I have watched as a fan for over 10 years, since I started racing effectively.
"I have immense respect for Daniel. His achievements in the sport - his race wins and podiums - but also his personality he brings to the sport, I think he's a fantastic personality for the sport.
"I wish him all the best for whatever his future holds. That being said, I don't get to choose which driver I replace."
"I can't not take an opportunity because the previous driver in that seat was Daniel.
"McLaren were extremely keen to have me onboard and it was an opportunity that was too good to refuse."
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