Szafnauer believed his Enstone team was on the brink of signing Alonso a new F1 contract as they neared the end of negotiations for the summer break.
But despite Alonso being informed on Sunday night of the Hungarian Grand Prix that everything would be resolved by the lawyers, Szafnauer said he was shocked to read Aston Martin’s announcement on Monday.
“It was the first confirmation I got,” he said when asked by TBEN how he found out that Alonso had made a deal with Aston Martin.
“Obviously when we are in the paddock there are all kinds of rumors and I had heard rumors that Aston was interested.
“Once you hear they’re interested, there’s probably discussion going on and there are other indications that discussions have taken place, like walking out of the same RV at the same time, all those kinds of things I’ve seen.
“But I was convinced that even with the discussions, and there’s nothing wrong with exploring, we were very close.
“So yeah, the first confirmation I had was the press release. I asked the question [to Alonso]. And I was told, “No, no, I didn’t sign anything.” So I was a little surprised.”
When asked if he had spoken to Alonso since the announcement, Szafnauer said: “I have not spoken to him as he is on a boat, I think, somewhere in the Greek islands.
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1, Pat Fry
Photo By: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
“I took the time this morning to address the staff here in Enstone. And the second thing I do is talk to you. And yesterday I got a lot of calls from other potential drivers. ”
Szafnauer said Alpine and Alonso had almost agreed a 1+1 contract extension, which would guarantee the Spaniard a seat for 2023 with an option for 2024 and beyond.
It is clear that one of the elements central to Alonso’s future thoughts was to stay in F1 as long as possible, as he felt a one-year commitment was not enough.
Szafnauer said: “There were only a few minor points that were open as he said his lawyer would contact us. 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 anyone else.’
“We will continue this in the coming days.”
He added: “We offered a one plus one deal. And we discussed with Fernando that: ‘Look, if you play at the same level next year at this time, of course we will take you and that could have gone on’.
“But I think he wanted more certainty regardless of performance: ‘I want to stay longer.’ And I think that was the gist of one plus one rather than two plus one or three plus one or three years.”