New Formula One fans learned from the Netflix hit docudrama Drive to Survive that a lot of action in the sport happens away from the racetrack. The 2022 summer contractual spat between Oscar Piastri and Alpine has epitomized how many parallel storylines occur in the sport without requiring cars to race. The truth behind what happened with Piastri and others in the paddock may never be publicly known, but that, in some ways, enhances the story into an even better F1 fable for the ages. If you haven't kept up on how everything unfolded, here's your guide.
Who is Oscar Piastri?
Oscar Piastri hasn't raced in any championship in 2022, let alone Formula One. Yet, the recent driver contract controversy in the sport is centered around him. It's fair to wonder who this possible troublemaker is. Like Charles Leclerc and George Russell before him, Piastri stormed to the Formula 2 and Formula 3 titles in his first years of racing in each championship. The talent of Leclerc and Russell is evident both are in the hunt to be vice-champion in 2022 behind the all-conquering Max Verstappen, and they're both regular podium finishers this season.
Let's be clear; winning Formula 2 and 3 in a rookie season isn't common, so drivers who achieve such success will have teams view them as some of the hottest prospects for an F1 future. For example, some predecessors to Leclerc and Russell include Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, back in the days when the junior championships were called GP2 and GP3.
Alpine and Piastri have collaborated since the young Australian raced and won the Formula Renault Eurocup championship in 2019. Besides the Eurocup champion's trophy, Renault opened the door for Piastri to join the Renault Sport Academy in 2020. This later became the Alpine Academy, but the company's mission remained to nurture young talent for a seat in the Renault/Alpine Formula One team.
Alpine Academy's role in the saga
Every F1 driver academy has various functions in how they assist members. For example, some fully fund a racer's career to help them concentrate on being the quickest on track, while others require payment to join. There are also reported instances of both formats being valid within the same academy program. In comments by Piastri's manager, ex-F1 driver Mark Webber, the French manufacturer contributed roughly 20% of the required finances to the 21-year-old's recent career.