During the summer break Alpine intended for reserve driver Piastri to step into the seat left by Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso but was caught out by the Australian rookie signing a deal with McLaren to replace Daniel Ricciardo.
Amid the ensuing fallout F1’s Contract Recognition Board ruled in Piastri’s and McLaren’s favour, Alpine has had to shop around for a replacement.
Speaking at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi season finale, Szafnauer believes Alpine has come out better from F1’s standout silly season saga, because he thinks Gasly is a better driver than Piastri will turn out to be.
When asked by Autosport to reflect on the driver change and the politics involved, Szafnauer said: “Thinking that Oscar had a contract with us and the Contract Recognition Board saying something different was a process we had to go through.
“We had to go to the CRB and then get resolution. You know, that’s life, that’s why you have bodies that judge in if two sides think differently.
“Look, let’s see how we do next year. I’m happy that our driving pairing with Esteban [Ocon] and Pierre is better than it would have been if we had won that case.
“[Gasly is] more experienced, still young. And time will tell, but I think faster.”
Oscar Piastri, McLaren speaks to the media
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Asked if Ocon and Gasly would turn out to be a better driver pairing than this year’s combination of Ocon and Alonso, Szafnauer replied: “That’s a good question.
“We had a great driver pairing this year and Fernando did a fabulous job and he’s still super-fast.
“I don’t know when Fernando will raise his hand and say, ‘it’s time to go’. I don’t know when that will happen, so it’s hard for me to say.
“I’m happy with our driver pairing but ask me that next year at this point and I’ll answer for you.”