Otmar Szafnauer believes Alpine has ended up with a better driver in Pierre Gasly for next year’s Formula 1 season than Oscar Piastri.
Alpine had planned to promote reserve driver Piastri to a race seat for 2023 in place of Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso, only for the Australian to sign a deal with McLaren.
Despite Alpine taking the case to F1’s Contract Recognition Board, the matter was ruled in McLaren’s favour, leaving the team to look elsewhere for a driver.
It soon identified Gasly as its preferred target and, after Red Bull agreed to release the one-time grand prix winner from his AlphaTauri contract, announced him as Esteban Ocon’s team-mate for next year.
While Piastri’s contract saga left Alpine in a position it did not envisage, team principal Szafnauer reckons the CRB’s ruling actually worked in the team’s favour now that it has Gasly on board for 2023.
Reflecting on the Piastri saga and the resulting driver change, Szafnauer said, as quoted by Motorsport.com: “Thinking that Oscar had a contract with us and the Contract Recognition Board saying something different was a process we had to go through.
“We had to go to the CRB and then get resolution. You know, that’s life, that’s why you have bodies that judge in if two sides think differently.
“Look, let’s see how we do next year. I’m happy that our driving pairing with Esteban [Ocon] and Pierre is better than it would have been if we had won that case.
“[Gasly is] more experienced, still young. And time will tell, but I think faster.”
Alpine won its season-long battle with McLaren for fourth in the constructors’ championship in Abu Dhabi, securing its highest finish in the standings since 2018.
Asked if he felt Alpine’s 2023 driver line-up would prove to be a better pairing than Ocon and Alonso, Szafnauer replied: “That’s a good question.
“We had a great driver pairing this year and Fernando did a fabulous job and he’s still super-fast.
“I don’t know when Fernando will raise his hand and say, ‘it’s time to go’. I don’t know when that will happen, so it’s hard for me to say.
“I’m happy with our driver pairing but ask me that next year at this point and I’ll answer for you.”