LONDON - Australian Oscar Piastri will race for McLaren next season on a multi-year deal after the Formula One team won their contract dispute with Renault-owned rivals Alpine.
The sport’s four-person Contract Recognition Board (CRB) ruled unanimously in their published decision on Friday that McLaren had the only valid contract for the 21-year-old rookie’s services.
Piastri, the champion in Formula Three and Formula Two in 2020 and 2021 respectively and managed by former racer Mark Webber, is Alpine’s reserve driver this season.
Alpine had wanted to promote him to a race seat after double world champion Fernando Alonso, 41, announced he was leaving for Aston Martin at the end of the season but the Australian rejected the offer.
“The Tribunal has issued a unanimous decision that the only contract to be recognised by the Board is the contract between McLaren Racing Limited and Mr Piastri dated 4 July 2022,” said a statement issued by the governing FIA.
“Mr Piastri is entitled to drive for McLaren Racing Limited for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.”
McLaren confirmed the move in a separate statement shortly afterwards, announcing Piastri would partner 22-year-old British driver Lando Norris and replace Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
“I’m extremely excited to be making my F1 debut with such a prestigious team as McLaren and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that’s been offered to me,” it quoted Piastri as saying.
“The team has a long tradition of giving young talent a chance, and I’m looking forward to working hard alongside Lando to push the team towards the front of the grid.”
July 4, the date Piastri signed his McLaren contract, was the day after the British Grand Prix at Silverstone – round 10 of the 22 race championship.
McLaren principal Andreas Seidl told Sky Sports television at the Dutch Grand Prix that he was ‘super-happy’ with the outcome.
“There’s two reasons why we wanted to have Oscar: I think he has shown in the junior categories that he is something very special and has a lot of potential. Plus also in terms of personality I think he is a perfect fit into our team.
“He’s young, full of energy and has the right amount of self-confidence as well but at the same time is very humble.”
McLaren are the second most successful team in Formula One history, behind only Ferrari in terms of race wins and titles, but have not won a championship since Lewis Hamilton’s first driver’s crown in 2008.
Alpine acknowledged the CRB verdict.
“We consider the matter closed on our side and will announce our full 2023 driver line-up in due course,” they said in a statement.
French driver Pierre Gasly is considered a frontrunner for the seat, alongside compatriot Esteban Ocon, if he can be released from his 2023 contract with the Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri team.
Ocon has made clear he would prefer Mick Schumacher, son of seven times Michael, as his team mate.
Race winner Ricciardo could also be an option, although the 33-year-old left Renault for McLaren at the end of 2020 and taking him back might appeal less to the French carmaker’s bosses than a younger alternative. REUTERS