Oscar Piastri gave a cryptic response when asked to reflect on his decision to join McLaren over Alpine, after the Woking outfit has endured a difficult start to the 2021 Formula 1 season.
A former Alpine Academy driver, Piastri was announced as their 2023 driver when Fernando Alonso left the team but the Australian denied he’d signed a deal, and eventually joined McLaren when the dispute was resolved.
However, he became the first F1 retirement of 2023 as McLaren were comfortably the worst team at the Bahrain Grand Prix, while Alpine enjoyed a point-scoring start to the season through Piastri‘s replacement Pierre Gasly.
“For me it was never really a decision of the two teams, it never really came down to that,” Piastri told the media. “So the rest of the details are all obviously very out there and I’ve been on rinse and repeat a lot.
“For me it was clear that I wanted McLaren, with the amount of passion that they showed to having me in the team, which was a massive, massive factor in that.
“So I don’t really view it in that same light, but obviously, I’m very focused on where I am now and trying to help the team move forward and get back to where you want to be.”
Why did Oscar Piastri choose McLaren over Alpine?
Piastri signed with the Alpine Academy in 2020 fresh off the back of a Formula Renault Eurocup title, the first of an unprecedented hat-trick of the three biggest steps on the road to F1.
He then won FIA F3 at his first attempt before he was promoted to F2, and won that as a rookie as well – by more than 50 points.
The only driver to achieve this feat, his success marked him out as a star of the future but without big financial backing he was forced to sit out 2022, with no F1 seats and unable to return to F2 as the reigning champion.
Alpine‘s masterplan was to get Piastri in another team for 2023, potentially Williams, then retire Alonso and move him to head up their sportscars programme and bring Piastri into Alpine for 2024.
However, when Alonso plumped for Aston Martin instead, they accelerated the process and announced Piastri had signed with the team for 2023.
Alpine assumed they had right of first refusal on Piastri as he was in their academy but that deadline had passed by the time Alonso made his announcement, and Piastri had entered into talks with McLaren instead.
The teams appeared before the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board – though not before Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnaeur accused the 21-year-old of lacking integrity – who eventually sided with McLaren.
Alpine even relented their hold on Piastri to allow him to drive in the 2022 post-season test in Abu Dhabi and brought in Gasly instead, though only Piastri will know whether he made the right decision.