Stroll always gets his man, and Alonso was offered a firm multi-year deal and far more money than he would get staying at Alpine. Aston is also a pretty good brand for Alonso to associate himself with for the longer term, notwithstanding its current financial issues.
The relative competitiveness of the two cars over the next two seasons is another question, and one that no one can yet answer. Alpine is still a works team, with all that entails. However given the money Stroll has spent in hiring big technical names and building a new factory, Aston should be on an upward trajectory.
Alonso was clearly a free agent at the end of this year, and as such perfectly entitled to take whatever deal was best for him and play one team against the other.
However, he seems to have been less than open with his current employers, leading them to believe on Sunday night in Hungary that an extension of his deal was still on. Then at 8am UK time on Monday came the press release from Aston Martin – he’s ours.
“We were in discussions with Fernando for quite some time,” team boss Otmar Szafnauer said on Tuesday. “And we were very, very close to finalising the agreement. There were just a couple of minor points that were outstanding, that he said that his lawyer would get back to us on.
“And I believed that to be the case. And then before he left, I confirmed with him that we would be signing soon. And he said, ‘Yeah, don’t worry, I haven’t signed with anybody else. We’ll continue this in the next couple of days.’
“But the next morning, I saw the release from Aston. We were very, very close. We had what I thought was a fair contract on both sides, and Fernando did too. But it looks like he decided to do something else thereafter…”
At first glance it seemed that Alonso’s jump had solved Alpine’s three-into-two scenario. Piastri would slot straight into the seat, and at a much lower cost.
And there would be no awkward situation at the end of 2023 sorting out Alonso’s future in order to get Piastri back from Williams, and potentially being seen by the Spanish public to retire him from F1 and send him to WEC. Job done, everyone happy.
Alpine meanwhile remained convinced that he was still contractually obliged to take the seat, especially as it was with Alpine itself, and not a loan deal to Williams.
However, it is believed that July 31, or Sunday night, was a key date in the contract, and that possibly Alpine didn’t exercise an option in time or tick the right boxes, leaving Piastri free to walk.
It was the next morning that the Alonso deal was announced and Alpine realised that it had a seat for Piastri after all.