February 2, 2023

Luke Smith

What does Alonso’s exit in the Alps mean for the rest of the F1 driver market

Over the past two weeks, both Alonso and the senior dogs have been in Alps They expressed confidence that things would be resolved quickly. On Thursday, Alonso said he thought it would only take 10 minutes to sort things out.

Perhaps this thing was true. It probably didn’t even take 10 minutes for him to say, “Guys, I’m gone.”

Make nothing about it: This is a huge, massive move in a ridiculous F1 season. Aston Martin seat liberated by retiree Sebastian Vettel It has always been a key to the market, attracting a variety of names. Alonso was a natural in the mix, having spoken with Lawrence Stroll about a deal before returning to Formula 1 with Alpine in 2021. Few would have expected things to move quickly, especially the Alps.

The loss of a driver of Alonso’s experience and competence is a huge blow to the French national team. Ostensibly, it seems to solve the problem of what he would have done with Oscar Piastre.

Alpine has been caught up in the classic ‘three drivers in two seats’ puzzle that many F1 teams have faced in the past. had a Esteban Ocon On a long-term contract, Alonso has performed well, and reserve driver Piastre is waiting in the wings with a rookie record that anyone on the F1 grid would envy.

Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said in France he is confident that both Alonso and Pestre will race in Formula 1 next year, noting that Alonso will stay in place and Piestri will be loaned. Williams It was the expected destination for the young Australian, to replace him Nicholas Latifibut over time, McLaren It was also emerging as a potential landing site for the event Daniel Ricciardo He left at the end of the season.

It was clear from the start that the Alps did not want to lose Biastr. Rossi stressed that he would only look to loan him to another team, and not let him go altogether – something that would have happened had he failed to give him a seat in Formula 1 for 2023. His belief in his future is complete.

Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Oscar Piestre, Alpine, Laurent Rossi, CEO of Alpine

Photo by: Alps

As much as Alpine was not willing to lose Alonso, having Piastri in his back pocket would have given her some support in conversations. Had Alonso gone to the chiefs of Alpine and used the interest of Aston Martin as leverage to get a better deal, there is unlikely to be the same fear of what life would look like without Alonso. Piastre will solve this problem.

Or so it seems. The fact that the conversations went on for so long led to some question marks about Piastri and Alpine’s future together, and whether it opened the door for another outfit to pounce on him and drive him away since his deal included various time-sensitive clauses. about summer. There were more and more whispers over the weekend in Hungary that McLaren could be an option should Ricciardo go, or even look beyond 2024. If Albine was so confident that Alonso would last, would Pastrie slip through his fingers Already?

As long as Piastre is still in her hands, the priority for Alpine will be to get him on the grid and start building for a long-term future after Alonso. The Ocon/Piastri squad may lack the experience or star power that Alonso holds, but there’s no denying that it’s an exciting prospect. Alpine will finally meet its goal of getting one of its pups in the work bench, even if it’s sooner than expected just two weeks ago.

But the knockout effect on the drivers market goes well beyond Alonso, who goes to Aston Martin and Bistre on a chance with Alpine as a result. In fact, Alpine may not be the only team that has had a chance to tap into a young driver who supports it and can now plan with it for the long term.

For Williams, bringing in the Piastre on loan from the Alps might be good in many ways, giving a bright young driver a chance. However, it also didn’t make sense for him to help develop Piastri only to have him leave in a year or two.

If Williams wanted to look to the longer term and invest in his own talent, Logan Sargent, leading member of the Young Drivers Academy, who is currently third in the Formula 2 standings, would have been a more reasonable choice. Sargent missed the Formula 3 Pastry title in 2020 by just four points, and has recovered from financial setbacks to impress in his F2 rookie campaign this year.

Williams coach Just Capito admitted in France It would be a ‘good headache’ if Sargent became an option for an F1 seat next year. Frankly, for a team that is looking to build for the future, and a team that has American owners, getting a young American driver on the grid might be the best move they can take.

Race winner Logan Sargent, Carlin

Race winner Logan Sargent, Carlin

Photo by: Williams

Another candidate for Williams would be Nyck de Vries, who considered him this year before finally signing Alex Albon Nice partner. De Vries is highly rated by Capito and has earned his streaks with titles in F2 and Formula E, however at 27, he may have a lower cap than Sargeant at 21 and lack the commercial push to get an American driver on the grid, which he also enjoys With great appeal for F1.

Just as it was last year George RussellTransfer to mercedesThe Williams open bench is one of those seats that can be very sturdy in the silly season and don’t need to be filled right away. Sargent still needs to get the requisite F1 edge points – but he will if he remains in a title dispute – and if you’re a driver in need of a seat, that could be an option.

For the same reason, Aston Martin’s confirmation of Alonso means things may have taken a slight turn for Ricciardo. The Australian was clear in his commitment to seeing his three-year deal with McLaren expire at the end of next season, however Zach Brown commented back in May about the “mechanics” in his contract that would allow for early exits, links to Piastri and a surge of signed IndyCar drivers into a rally. The McLaren driver hasn’t done much to assuage doubt about his future.

Ricardo’s best move, without a doubt, is to not move. But if things got to a point where switching away was the only option, was Aston Martin a viable landing point? it’s improbably. For all his talent and success, Ricciardo didn’t quite fit the illustrious image that Aston Martin was chasing with its team under Stroll’s ownership. If the commitment on both sides to make it work for Ricciardo in Woking is tangible, then Alonso’s move will change nothing. But should he go his separate ways with McLaren, there is now one less alternative option on the table.

In a few days we had one of the greatest Formula Ones hang up his helmet, and another commit for a few more years on the grid.

The decisions would have huge repercussions on the drivers market and have already sent a ridiculous season to Tour – just as the circuit was planning to put its foot in the ground during the summer break.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36

Photography: Andy Hoon / motorsports pictures