Alpine stunned by Alonso's Aston Martin move, now unable to contact superstar driver

By Sports Desk August 02, 2022

Alpine expected Fernando Alonso to agree a new contract with the team right up until the moment his move to Aston Martin was announced, Otmar Szafnauer has revealed.

And Alpine team principal Szafnauer's attempts to subsequently get in touch with Alonso have proved unsuccessful.

Alonso has driven for Alpine since their rebrand ahead of the 2021 season, returning to Formula One after two seasons away.

The Spaniard had won world championships with Renault – the team under their previous name – back in 2005 and 2006.

Now a midfield runner, Alonso has secured only a single podium in his second stint with the French team, but his switch to Aston Martin on Monday came as somewhat of a surprise – not least to Alpine.

Alonso will replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel in 2023, with his move the first of the mid-season break after Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.

As of the end of that race, in which Alonso finished eighth, Szafnauer thought his superstar driver was returning next year.

"[The Aston Martin statement] was the first confirmation I had," the Alpine chief told Motorsport.com.

"Obviously, when we're in the paddock, there's all sorts of rumours, and I had heard rumours that Aston were interested.

"Once you hear that they're interested, there's probably discussions that took place, and there's some other indications that discussions took place, like walking out of the same motorhome at the same time, all that kind of stuff, which I saw.

"But I was confident that, even with the discussions, and there's nothing wrong with exploring, we were very close.

"So, yes, the first confirmation I had was the press release. I did ask the question [to Alonso]. And I was told: 'No, no, I haven't signed anything.' So, I was a bit surprised."

Asked if he had since spoken to Alonso, Szafnauer replied: "I haven't talked to him, since he's on a boat, I think, in the Greek Isles somewhere.

"I took this morning to address the staff. And the second thing I'm doing is talking to you. And yesterday, I fielded a bunch of calls from other potential drivers."

One obvious option is Oscar Piastri, the Alpine reserve driver who had appeared set for a year at Williams when Alonso was in line for a new contract.

However, Szafnauer faces issues on that front, too, amid claims Piastri has agreed to race instead for McLaren – something Alpine have not agreed to.

"I'm not privy to whatever pre-arrangements he has with McLaren, if any at all," Szafnauer said, stating Alpine have "a legal contract" with Piastri for 2023.

He added: "Oscar and his camp are considering their options, whatever that means."

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