Alpine has announced Oscar Piastri will make his Formula 1 debut with the team in 2023, replacing Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso.
Piastri missed out on an F1 seat for this year despite sailing to the Formula 2 title in 2021, taking on the role as Alpine’s reserve driver in an extensive testing programme.
It had been widely expected that Alpine would loan Piastri to another team – with Williams the likely suitors – as it intended to retain Alonso, only for the Spaniard to take Sebastian Vettel’s vacant drive at rivals Aston Martin.
This left Alpine, who admitted it was caught out by Alonso’s shock departure, needing to find a replacement to partner Esteban Ocon.
While Piastri was its preferred choice, the Australian and his manager Mark Webber had been in talks with McLaren about replacing Daniel Ricciardo despite the eight-time grand prix winner having a contract for next year.
Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer has however stressed Piastri’s contract with the Enstone squad has terms that oblige him to drive for the team in 2023 and therefore cannot move elsewhere.
Although the situation remains unclear, Alpine confirmed on Tuesday, just 24 hours after Alonso’s exit was announced, that Piastri would be its second driver next year.
“After four years as part of the Renault and Alpine family, Reserve Driver Oscar Piastri is promoted to a race seat alongside Esteban Ocon starting from 2023.” the team posted on its social media channels.
Alpine’s release did not feature any quotes from Piastri himself, fuelling speculation that it could be dragged into a legal tussle for his services.
The 21-year-old is likely to be handed his maiden F1 outing in an FP1 session at some point in the second half of the season, although Alpine hasn’t confirmed at which race this will happen.