Motor racing-Alpine confident for Piastri contract hearing on Monday

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Spanish Grand Prix - Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain - May 19, 2022 Alpine's Oscar Piastri ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

(Reuters) - Renault-owned Alpine expressed confidence in their case ahead of a meeting on Monday of Formula One's Contract Recognition Board to decide which team Australian Oscar Piastri should race for next season.

Team boss Otmar Szafnauer told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday that Alpine's contract with their 21-year-old reserve was solid.

The youngster has ruled out racing for Alpine, however, and is believed to have signed a deal to race for rivals McLaren instead.

McLaren have not commented but this week created a vacancy by terminating Australian Daniel Ricciardo's contract for 2023.

"We are going to the CRB on Monday. I don't know when they will rule, it will be soon thereafter," said Szafnauer.

"We'll have the CRB decide which contract that Oscar signed takes precedence, and once we have that ruling we'll look forward and see where we go.

"I've seen both sides of the argument and we're confident that Oscar signed with us back in November and there are certain things that need to be in the contract and I'm confident they are in there."

Szafnauer said there had been no end-July deadline and Alpine's contract was for 2023 with an option for 2024.

Asked whether Alpine could force Piastri to race for them, Szafnauer said that would have to wait for a decision on Monday or Tuesday.

The dispute arose after Alpine's double world champion Fernando Alonso announced he would be leaving the team for Aston Martin at the end of the year.

Alpine had been prepared to give the 41-year-old Spaniard a year's extension, and park Piastri at Williams, but Alonso wanted a longer deal and, a free agent, jumped at the Aston opportunity.

Alpine then announced Piastri as Alonso's replacement only for the Australian, last year's Formula Two winner, to reject the seat.

Asked whether Alpine might take back Ricciardo, who joined McLaren from Renault at the end of 2020, Szafnauer sidestepped the question.

"Can I tell you after Monday because I might not even have to think about that?," he said, adding that Piastri remained active in the team.

"He's back in Enstone, he's driving our simulator and helping with car setup," he said. "We continue to prepare Oscar in no different a manner than we have in the past.

"The relationship hasn't wavered and we continue."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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