” Why having chosen Aston Martin ?
I received a call from the team after the announcement of Sebastian’s retirement (Vettel). We discussed and came to an agreement, quickly. I think their project is very attractive. They’ve invested a lot in the last few years, they’ve hired a lot of good people, they’ve built new buildings in Silverstone. I had the feeling that it was a great project for the future. I thought it was the right thing to do.
You are going to leave a team currently 4th in the Championship for a team which is 9th. What do you expect from Aston Martin for next year?
Of course, I am taking risks with this decision. No one has a crystal ball to know the future. But in F1, like in other sports, you either win or you don’t. So, in the end, it doesn’t matter if you finish 4th, 9th or 13th: either you are first or you don’t win. We are all here to occupy this first place. And of all the options that I had for next year, I think this was the best, that this project has assets which in F1 make it possible to win. We’ll see if we can bring this project to success quickly.
“It’s not just about the duration of the contract, it’s also about trust”
Can you give us the details of your negotiations with Aston Martin in Hungary, which led to the signing of the contract?
I can’t reveal everything, but I can tell some things. It all started when Sebastian announced he would retire at the end of the season. Aston Martin probably did not expect this decision, they were happy to continue for another year with him. They called several drivers that they were interested in and were available next year, I was one of them. We started to discuss in Hungary, what I expected, what they expected from me too. We quickly approached common ground. And on Monday morning, we signed the contract. We decided to announce it quickly, in order to avoid the risk of a leak.
Would you have been happy to stay with Alpine?
Yes, that was my original intention. In all the press conferences I held this year, I always said that I was happy with the progress of the team. It was to join her that I decided to come back to F1. It’s more than just a team for me, it’s a family. We have accomplished so much together, she will always be a part of my life. But Aston Martin really wanted to hire me, and had confidence in my ability to develop their project. And I said to myself that if I left, Alpine could offer this steering wheel to a young driver, like Oscar (Piastri). It was a win-win.
If Alpine had offered you a longer contract (the French team offered a year plus one more as an option), could you have signed before the wheel at Aston Martin became available?
Negotiations with Alpine were progressing, but we weren’t necessarily in agreement on the main point. But it’s not just about the length of the contract, it’s also about trust, how much you feel wanted by a team. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, but I felt like Aston Martin really wanted me and enjoyed my performance for the past two years.
“The people involved in the negotiations were aware”
Otmar (Szafnauer, the director of Alpine) declared that he had learned of your signature at Aston Martin in the press release published by the team. How well did you keep Alpine informed of your departure?
I am happy to be asked this question. It’s true, Otmar probably didn’t know anything about my negotiations with Aston Martin, but I informed Laurent Rossi (the CEO of Alpine) and Luca de Meo (Renault boss), my mechanics and my engineers before the official announcement. The people involved in the negotiations were aware. Otmar wasn’t involved in the negotiations, and maybe Laurent and Luca didn’t call him. This explains his surprise.
After the announcement of your departure for Aston Martin, Alpine announced the signing of Oscar Piastri. But the latter denied and declared that he would not ride for the team in 2023. What do you think of this situation?
It’s hard for me to comment. I think everyone here was surprised by what happened. But I don’t know all the details, and it’s not for me to comment, it’s for the team to do.
There were rumors around Flavio Briatore, your former manager, who took part in the negotiations. Can you clarify his role, if ever he had one?
I read these rumors, and it’s quite sad and annoying. Flavio was never involved in anything involving me. I made this decision alone. For several months, negotiations had been going on, but nothing was officially happening, nothing was happening. Aston Martin called me after the announcement of Sebastian’s retirement. It was a quick and easy decision to make. But what happened next, especially around Oscar, that doesn’t concern me. He is a great talent and he will bring a lot to the team he joins, Alpine or another. I wish him the best, and I also wish the best to Alpine. »