Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has left the door open for a Daniel Ricciardo to return with uncertainty surrounding his future, and that of Oscar Piastri.
Having lost Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin for 2023, Alpine announced that Australia’s Piastri would take the Spaniard’s spot next year.
But in a major bombshell to shake the F1 paddock, Piastri denied on social media that a deal had been made, and emphatically declared: “I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”
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That has sent the rumor mill into overdrive about whether Piastri has a deal secured elsewhere already — possibly at McLaren to replace the struggling Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo has a third year to run on his McLaren contract but has been under pressure, while Piastri’s manager, Mark Webber, is understood to have aggressively lobbied the team to snap up Piastri prior to Alonso’s shock departure.
Should a McLaren move materialize for Piastri, it would leave Ricciardo without a seat for 2023.
One option for Ricciardo could be an awkward return to Alpine (formerly Renault), who was disappointed in 2020 by quitting after just two seasons.
Nonetheless, the team has since undergone a change of management, while Szafnauer sees no reason why Ricciardo can’t be a potential option.
Szafnauer confirmed to motorsport.com.au that the team has already fielded numerous calls from other drivers.
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Asked about the possibility of Ricciardo returning, he pointed to the example of Alonso, whose F1 career has included two stints at McLaren, and three at Alpine-Renault.
“I mean, if you look at Fernando, for example, he comes and goes, and I think that happens to other drivers too,” he told the publication.
“And I don’t think that’s an issue at all. I think what we need to focus on is, like I say, the plans that we have for the next 89-88 races.
“We’ve got to make sure that we complement that plan with the best driver that we can, and there are some options out there for us. And we put the best driver in next to Esteban [Ocon]so that we can move forward towards what we’ve been planning.”
Nonetheless, Alpine hopes to hold onto Piastri, saying: “We believe we are legally correct in our statement (about his signing).”
Szafnauer told the publication — albeit before Piastri’s statement — that there is no reason a healthy working partnership can’t be maintained with the Australian should the team get its wish.