The F1 is back on the track but the Aussie drama has overshadowed the start of the Belgian Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo’s ousting at McLaren and the expected replacement by fellow Aussie Oscar Piastri has dominated the opening day of practice.

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On the track, Ricciardo had a solid hit out, finishing seventh in the first practice session ahead teammate Lando Norris in 13th before going ninth fastest in the second session behind the Brit in third.

But it was mostly forgotten as the war of words ignited between McLaren and Alpine.

The drama which made the mid-season break a lot busier than usual kicked off when Fernando Alonso stunned the grid by signing with Aston Martin.

Alpine then announced Piastri would take his seat, only for the Aussie rookie to refuse the job with mountains of speculation he would take Ricciardo’s seat at McLaren.

Currently nothing has been officially announced regarding Piastri’s position for next year but the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board will come to a decision next week after reports both Alpine and McLaren have valid contracts.

But it didn’t stop Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer from taking another shot at Piastri, questioning the 21-year-old’s integrity once again.

“I think the right thing for us to do is go to the CRB on Monday, see how that pans out and then start looking at some negotiations in earnest,” Szafnauer told Sky Sports.

“He’s a promising young driver, he hasn’t driven in Formula 1 yet, and my wish for Oscar is he had a bit more integrity.

“He signed a piece a piece of paper as well back in November and we’ve done everything on our end of the bargain to prepare him for Formula 1, and his end of the bargain was to ether drive for us, or take a seat where we would place him for the next three years.

“I just wish Oscar would have remembered what he signed in November and what he signed up to.”

But McLaren boss Zak Brown, who orchestrated Ricciardo’s exit from his team, questioned whether Szafnauer was the might man to question other people’s integrity, having been fined 400,000 euros and penalised 15 points when he was the team principal for Aston Martin.

“Judging by recent times and the way Fernando caught Otmar by surprise,” said the McLaren CEO.

“And not too long ago he was the recipient of a €400,000 fine and 15 points – I’m not sure he comes with the highest level of credibility and making accusations of ethics.”

But Szafnauer isn’t the only one warning Piastri for his bold entry into the F1 world.

While you could argue the cutthroat nature of the sport means drivers need to get the best deal possible to start their career on the best foot, 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve said Piastri’s manoeuvres could have lasting effects.

“This one is fun to watch because it just surprised everyone,” the 1997 World Champion told Reuters. “To start like that with that kind of pressure is not easy.

“It brings to your name into question that whenever a team or sponsor will sign a deal with you there will always be this question, umm how will we be treated?

“What will happen when we trust this person? It’s a very dangerous game to play.”

‘Speak highly of Daniel’: Alpine door open

Another intriguing development was Szafnauer’s comments on Ricciardo, who seems to be on the list for the seat.

Although it had been unknown whether Alpine, formerly Renault, would welcome Ricciardo back after he walked out on the team for the McLaren job in 2020, Szafnauer left the door wide open.

Questioned about why the team didn’t sign Alonso for more than one year, Szafnauer said his age was a factor for the 41-year-old.

“Fernando is a two-time world champion, still driving at a high level,” he said. “Hopefully that won’t last too much longer because he’s leaving!
“It doesn’t last forever, but we’ve got to look forward now and fill the open seat that we have with the best driver.”
Ricciardo is definitely on the list of best available drivers now and Szafnauer said the Aussie left the team on good terms.
“The team speak very highly of Daniel and his time here,” he said.
“We haven’t had those strategic discussions yet. But everyone I speak to, the engineering team, they really speak highly of his skill as a driver and as a team motivator.”
Ricciardo was asked if he wanted to return to Alpine, replying: “Yes — I don’t really know how else to say that.”

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