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Piastri’s next drive remains a mystery

The Formula One contract dispute surrounding Australian racer Oscar Piastri has been heard by the Contract Recognition Board (CRB) of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), but the body may not offer an immediate ruling clarifying the 21-year-old’s future.

Piastri, reserve driver for French manufacturer Alpine, was announced by the team this month as replacement for Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso.

But Piastri, understood to have signed a contract with McLaren, said he won’t be racing for the team that has supported his junior career and, until Alonso’s departure, was set to give him his Formula One debut on loan to Williams next season.

McLaren have created a vacancy for next season by ending fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo’s contract one year early.

With both teams staking claims to the highly-rated youngster, the CRB will decide which is valid, and met on Monday to do so.

But set up to swiftly settle contract disputes, the body could take up to three days, the maximum time granted, to issue its verdict.

Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix he was confident of the merits of the team’s claims.

“I don’t know when they’ll rule,” Szafnauer said.

“It will be soon thereafter, and then, once we have all the information in front of us, we’ll start looking at who will fill the open seat.”

Alpine, fourth in the overall standings, could have a number of drivers in the frame should they need to replace Piastri.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly, who was confirmed for 2023 by Red Bull sister team AlphaTauri this year, has emerged as a candidate for the Alpine drive, according to Motorsport.com.

The team’s current driver Esteban Ocon, meanwhile, said at the Belgian Grand Prix that he has told management to consider his friend and current Haas driver Mick Schumacher for the seat.

Ricciardo, a free agent next year, could also return to Alpine, whom he raced with for two seasons when they were badged as Renault before leaving for McLaren in 2021.

Alpine could also get a sizeable payout, with Szafnauer not ruling out taking the matter to the high court to recover the investment the team has made in Piastri’s career.

If the CRB rules in Alpine’s favour the team could allow a rival team to buy him out.

Equally, they could force the Australian, who continues to perform his simulator duties back at the team’s base in England, to race for them.

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