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Analysis

How F1 Contract Recognition Board will decide Piastri’s fate

A virtual meeting of the Contract Recognition Board on Monday is set to decide the Formula 1 future of Oscar Piastri.

Oscar Piastri, Alpine

Oscar Piastri, Alpine

Alpine

The Alpine and McLaren teams both have a claim on the Australian's services for 2023. They are obliged by the Concorde Agreement to abide by the decision of the CRB, and not pursue further legal action in attempt to get that ruling changed.

Formed in the wake of the controversy resulting from Michael Schumacher’s move from Jordan and Benetton and Roberto Moreno’s subsequent ousting from the latter, the CRB usually operates quietly in the background, only hitting the headlines when a high-profile dispute arises.

It is referenced in the FIA Sporting Regulations under Appendix 5, but that section is actually blank, with a note saying “reserved for the exclusive use of competitors entered in the FIA Formula One World Championship.”

The full details of how it operates are enshrined in the Concorde, and are thus not widely known, even within the F1 paddock.

The CRB exists independently of the FIA. Its role is to tell the governing body which team has a valid contract with a driver, and is entitled to hold a superlicence on their behalf.

Its day-to-day function is a repository for all F1 race, reserve and test driver contracts, or at least the key sections – teams aren’t necessarily obliged to submit all the paperwork, as full contracts are complex and cover marketing matters and so on.

When a dispute arises three lawyers convene and review the evidence from all parties. They are required to supply an outcome within three days of the hearing.

Two of the most famous CRB cases saw a driver’s original team win, and the outfit hoping to poach him lose. That happened when David Coulthard tried to leave Williams for McLaren in 1995, and when Jenson Button wanted to move from BAR to Williams a decade later.

David Coulthard stuck with Williams for 1995, but moved to McLaren for the following year

David Coulthard stuck with Williams for 1995, but moved to McLaren for the following year

Photo by: Motorsport Images

One man who has experience of the CRB process – and who got the outcome that he wanted - is Timo Glock. In the days before video calls his hearing was conducted in person. As is often the case the dispute revolved around the details of an option.

"I was test driver at BMW Sauber in 2007,” the German told Motorsport.com. “And then I had the offer for a race seat at Toyota, and BMW had to take the option to put me into a race seat, which they didn't do. But they at that stage, they said they did.

“I cannot even remember how many guys were sitting in the room, but there were lawyers involved who look on both sides. Everyone has to give his statement. BMW put their opinion on the table. And we had our opinion. And then they clearly make the decision.

“They decided there is no offer from BMW for a seat, I've got one from Toyota, and I'm free to go. It was a bit of an awkward situation, but we had to go there, because in our point of view and that of the CRB the situation was clear.

“They wanted to keep me as a reserve, but in the end there was anyway no race seat, they didn't take the option that they had on me. So it was pretty easy, and it was quickly done. I think on Monday maybe it takes a bit longer!”

Glock says it was a good process: "If you have problems like this, and you have a sort of a clear view from an outside lawyer or from the board, who clearly has no favour, and it just goes by the legal regulation, I think that's good to have. Otherwise, you would fight forever.

"It's going to be interesting how they decide on Piastri, and what sort of legal situation they are in. Every side has its own view."

Glock's move to Toyota resulted in a race seat for 2008

Glock's move to Toyota resulted in a race seat for 2008

Photo by: Sutton Images

Should Alpine win the CRB case it doesn’t necessarily mean that Piastri will actually race for the Enstone team in 2023. Given the animosity surrounding his attempts to move to McLaren it’s apparent that the relationship has soured so much that in effect forcing him to drive would make little sense for either side. In that case Alpine would have the option to name its price and sell him to McLaren.

However, Alpine could in theory also entertain interest from other teams that might want to hire Piastri, or trade him with someone who has a contract elsewhere, such as Pierre Gasly.

If McLaren is not able to land Piastri, either via the CRB decision or a subsequent deal with Alpine, it will have to find someone else to replace Daniel Ricciardo.

If Alpine loses there is also the possibility that legal action could follow, although not in terms of pursuing its claim on his services. Team boss Otmar Szafnauer has indicated that Alpine would consider a damages claim in order to recoup the funds spent on his test programmes and so on.

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