Alpine Formula One team principal Otmar Szafnauer learned about Spaniard Fernando Alonso’s move to Aston Martin only when he read the official press release, he said on Tuesday.
Twice F1 world champion Alonso signed a multi-year contract with Aston Martin on Monday, joining them as a replacement for German Sebastian Vettel, who last week announced his retirement from racing at the end of the current season.
Alonso’s decision to join Aston Martin came as a surprise to Szafnauer, who was confident Renault-owned Alpine had been on the verge of signing the 41-year-old driver to a new contract.
“It was the first confirmation I had,” Szafnauer told reporters on a Zoom call. “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… But I was confident that, even with the discussions, and there’s nothing wrong with exploring, that 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.”
Szafnauer said Alpine had offered Alonso a contract extension which would have guaranteed him a seat for the 2023 season with an option to extend for another year.
“We offered a one plus one deal. And we discussed with Fernando that: ‘Look, if next year at this time you’re performing at the same level, of course, we will take you and that could have carried on’,” he added.
“But I think he wanted more certainty independent of performance: ‘I want to stay for longer.’ And I think that was the crux of the going one plus one as opposed to two plus one or three plus one or three years.”