Oscar Piastri is believed to have signed a contract with McLaren F1, publicly rejecting Alpine's claim that he will drive with the French squad next season.
The 21-year-old (much like Alpine) expected Fernando Alonso to sign an extension with team Enstone, which likely motivated his decision to enter negotiations with other teams to find a more direct route to F1.
With Alpine anticipating Alonso's continuation with the team, Piastri and his manager Mark Webber looked into the alternatives available to them and seemingly reached an agreement with McLaren.
ESPN Brazil reports that Piastri's deal with the Woking team guarantees him a full-time seat in 2024, taking the reserve driver role in 2023.
If true, this is an interesting development, as it would be a surprise to see Piastri reject a full-time F1 seat for another year on the sidelines as a reserve.
However, when considering Ricciardo's struggles at McLaren, it is clear that the papaya team views Ricciardo as an expendable asset.
McLaren is unsurprisingly eager to secure a Norris-Piastri lineup, a duo with immense speed and the potential to lead the team for several seasons.
Piastri's position might seem awkward, but there is virtually no scenario where Piastri does not emerge victorious.
Even if Alpine can prove that Piastri is legally and contractually bound to them for 2023, they cannot force him to sign a multi-year deal beyond then.
Piastri can still switch to McLaren in 2024 after Ricciardo's contract expires, which may or may not be the original plan.
If Ricciardo decides to opt-in to his final year with McLaren and continues with the team in 2023, there are two options for Piastri.
The first is to wait until his contract expires and join the team with a seat secured for 2024.
The second option is for McLaren to terminate Ricciardo's contract prematurely to facilitate Piastri's entry for 2023.
There is also the possibility that Ricciardo will not take up his team option for 2023, instead choosing to switch to Alpine, making Piastri's F1 entry much less complicated.
Regardless of which scenario plays out, Piastri always has a pathway available to him.