Present this Saturday morning at a press conference surrounded by Mike Krack (Aston Martin) and Andreas Siedl (McLaren), the two teams with which Alpine made the news around its drivers (or future ex), Otmar Szafnauer adopted a calm attitude, faithful to his habits, in the face of the heavy fire of questions. But he did not hesitate to share his version of the facts after the sharp words of Fernando Alonso, Thursday, in particular towards him.
“Can you go back to how you learned of Fernando Alonso’s departure for Aston Martin?
There were rumors in the paddock on Sunday of the Hungarian Grand Prix that it could happen. But when I left Fernando the evening after the race, he said to me: “Don’t worry, we have time, I’ll be on my boat in Greece.” He even told me that if I went to Greece, he would invite me to have a coffee with him. Whether he went there or not, I don’t know. The surprise of the announcement came for me from the fact that we had made good progress in the negotiations, that they were in good faith and that Fernando had said that he was ready to sign. Even if he wanted a longer contract, he told me that 1+1 was fine with him. That he negotiates with another team, it was normal because he was free of any contract at the end of the year. But my surprise is the announcement Monday morning after saying Sunday that there was no rush.
Alonso however said that you were not involved in the negotiations that is why he did not inform you directly.
Negotiations with Fernando started before I joined the team (in February) but towards the end I got involved in the discussions. If I understand correctly, the press release was published at 9 a.m. and he called Laurent Rossi (the boss of Alpine) and Luca de Meo (CEO of Renault) between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m. so it’s difficult to call three people in such a short time.
“On Oscar (Piastri), the only disappointment is that he signed with us in November and we kept all our promises, we even did a little more. The counterpart was that he moved into our car. »
Do you have any regrets about the way Alonso’s situation was handled, but also that of Oscar Piastri (who signed another contract with McLaren)?
I’m sure that in every situation, we learn lessons. With Fernando, he was free at the end of the year so we knew he was talking to other teams. We had presented him with a contract which we were satisfied with on our side. So we have no regrets on this aspect and he got what he wanted the most elsewhere. On Oscar, the only disappointment is that he signed with us in November and we kept all our promises, we even did a little more. The counterpart was that he moved into our car.
What will the suite look like for Alpine, which now has a free seat?
Already, we will see what will happen before the Contract Recognition Board on Monday and see which agreement has priority (between Alpine and McLaren). Once that decision is made, we’ll see what happens. I have seen the arguments of both parties and I am very confident. I don’t like talking about contract details but what I can say is that there was not in the agreement with Oscar a deadline to do something at July 31st. The terms of the contract go until 2024 with an option at the end of 2023. When we have all the information at our disposal, we will see who will occupy the seat left vacant. You know, I was there when it happened with Jenson Button who had signed with Williams (in 2004) but BAR already had a contract with him and it had been validated by the commission. In the end, it had culminated with the title of Jenson a few years later under another name (Brawn GP in 2009) but it was almost the same team. »