Oscar Piastri left the Formula 1 world in shock last season when he abruptly shrugged off the team that had invested in him during his junior years.
As a member of the Alpine Academy, Piastri was well supported and made his mark on the racing world as he won every championship he entered in his first season.
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The Aussie, now 21, was the third man in line behind Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon and as the Formula 1 silly season kicked off a seat opened up when Alonso skipped out and joined Aston Martin in a bombshell move.
What unfolded next was nothing short of pure anarchy.
The wild scenes between Piastri, Alpine and McLaren were put placed directly into the spotlight during Netflix’s season five of Drive to Survive.
In the space of a couple of days the team formerly known as Renault had been blindsided twice, once by Alonso and then by Piastri.
It was the latter that cut the deepest with team principal Otmar Szafnauer stating early in episode five that a key part of their plans moving forward revolved around the Aussie young gun.
“He most recently won the F2 championship, he’s very strong and very fast. We’ve invested maybe $4m in his preparation for Formula 1. Lot of money but I think he’s a future world champion,” Szafnauer says.
As the cameras show Piastri getting a workout in at Alpine’s facilities, Szafneur is once again stating his joy at having the Aussie in the line-up for 2023.
“Alpine’s a good team to be driving for because we’re doing all the right things and putting the tools in place that are required to win. I’m excited to have Oscar for 2023,” he says.
Then the bomb drops.
Piastri fled the coop and signed on the dotted line with McLaren to partner with Lando Norris in the place of the axed Daniel Ricciardo.
Clearly slighted by the hits that had befallen the team, Szafneur delivered several brutal shots at the rising youngster.
“Oscar signing for McLaren was a big shock. It was difficult for me to understand the lack of loyalty, I was hoping he had a little bit more integrity than that,” he says.
But his most ruthless shot came shortly after the Dutch Grand Prix had been run.
Ricciardo endured a weekend to forget as he majorly struggled, ultimately crossing the line in 17th place out of 18 drivers who finished the race.
Szafneur didn’t miss a chance to stick the boot into Piastri who is taking Ricciardo’s seat in 2023.
“Good luck to Oscar,” Szafneur says as his race engineers burst into laughter.
The fallout saw Alpine threaten to file a civil lawsuit to recoup the millions they had invested.
McLaren boss Zak Brown attempted to fix the situation by meeting with Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi and offering up a deal behind closed doors.
Brown offered up a straight driver swap, putting Ricciardo’s name on the table for his fellow countrymen.
“I feel like I can help, let’s close this thing out. I’d love to see him here but that’s only because I’d love to see him stay in the sport,” Brown says.
With a list of three drivers already on their board, Rossi responded to Brown’s deal with: “maybe I’ll give him a chance”.
In the end Alpine signed AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly with Ricciardo off the grid entirely and ending up back at his old stomping ground in Red Bull as a reserve driver.
Piastri will enter his first season with sky-high expectations and if he fails to produce behind the wheel of the McLaren, Szafneur and Alpine will be revelling in it.
The 2023 Formula 1 season gets underway on February 6 with the Bahrain Grand Prix at 2am (AEDT).
Drive to Survive season five premieres on Netflix on Friday, February 24.
Watch every practice, qualifying & race of the 2023 F1 season live on Kayo Sports.