Aussies key to F1 contract wrangle

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The Formula One future of Daniel Ricciardo is increasingly unclear with a pair of fellow Australians seemingly manoeuvring to take over his seat at McLaren.

Rising star Oscar Piastri and his manager - Australian former F1 racer Mark Webber - have reportedly arranged a deal with McLaren to allow the 21-year-old to get his break in the championship next year.

This is despite Renault-owned Alpine announcing Piastri as part of the French team's 2023 driver line-up on Tuesday in the wake of Fernando Alonso's shock decision to join Aston Martin on a multi-year deal at the end of the season.

In an embarrassing moment for Alpine, Piastri took to social media to refute the team's statement that he would be part of their plans next year.

"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 said via his Twitter page.

"This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year."

Having won the Formula Three and Formula Two championships in back-to-back campaigns, Piastri's potential has made him hot property on the F1 circuit.

The Melbourne-born driver has spent 2022 as a reserve driver for Alpine but if the rumours he's set to join McLaren are correct, it would have a knock-on effect for Ricciardo.

McLaren have Ricciardo and British driver Lando Norris on their books but Ricciardo's underwhelming performances with the English outfit have put his place at the team in jeopardy.

The West Australian has already indicated he intends to see out his contract with McLaren and has no intention of leaving the team but may find himself with a decision to make if it's clear his team would prefer Piastri on the grid next year.

Alpine meanwhile are standing firm, with team principal Otmar Szafnauer telling reporters they believe they have a legally-binding deal with Piastri for at least 2023 and possibly 2024.

"I'm not privy to whatever pre-arrangements he has with McLaren, if any at all," Szadnauer said.

"What I do know is that he does have contractual obligations to us. And we do to him.

"Those obligations last through '23, and possibly in '24, if some options are taken up."

Neither McLaren nor Piastri's management have spoken on the dispute, which could land at the desk of F1's contracts recognition board - a body which settles disputes between teams over drivers.

If Ricciardo does agree to leave McLaren or has his contract paid out by the team in order to facilitate Piastri's arrival, the 33-year-old could return to the Alpine team he left at the end of 2020 to fill Alonso's vacancy among several potential scenarios for 2023.

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