ANALYSIS: Piastri, Ricciardo, Williams and more – where next for F1’s 2023 driver market?
The summer break kicked off with a dramatic 48 hours that saw Fernando Alonso announce a shock move to Aston Martin, Alpine respond by announcing Oscar Piastri only for Piastri to say he’s not driving for them and then Williams getting in on the act by confirming a new multi-year deal with Alex Albon. Formula 1’s silly season is in full swing so what can we expect to happen next?
First of all, who’s confirmed for next year already?
There will be no change at the top three teams, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at Mercedes, and Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez at Red Bull all firmly in place for 2023 – and as we now know, Alonso will be joining Lance Stroll at Aston Martin.
So, who is going to be in the Alpine, then?
We know one seat will be taken by Esteban Ocon, who has a deal that runs to the end of 2024. The other seat, though, is up in the air and may well require lawyers to step in. Alpine believe they have a contract with Piastri. Piastri, at this stage, doesn’t want to drive for them. It is believed he has an option elsewhere.
Spill the beans. Where is that option?
Crikey, you’re keen. Well McLaren are understood to be Piastri’s desired location, but they currently have Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo under contract for next year. Ricciardo’s seat is said to be the one that Piastri could take, but that requires the eight-time race winner to opt out of his deal. As it stands, he has no intention to do so.
If McLaren do get Piastri, what will Alpine do?
They are, I’m told, relaxed about the situation and while their primary goal is to secure Piastri having invested heavily in him, they have a shortlist of drivers they are interested in. Top of the list would be Ricciardo. The Australian did a very good job at Enstone when they ran under the Renault banner. He’s still a big name despite his recent struggles and would be motivated to succeed.
If Ricciardo leaves McLaren and the sport then it’s a bit trickier. But it's a desirable seat and there are plenty on the market, including the likes of Nyck de Vries and Mick Schumacher.
Let’s talk about Williams
They have Alex Albon tied up now, but who will he partner?
That’s a question Williams are still pondering. It’s very likely this will be Nicholas Latifi’s last season. There’s a few contenders with Nyck de Vries in a strong position.
He did a good job in FP1 in Spain didn’t he?
He did indeed. The Mercedes reserve impressed the team with how much he got out of the car in a single session with reasonably little preparation – and the data shows the Dutchman, who missed out to Albon on a seat for this year, is clearly very quick.
Anyone else of interest?
Yep, Logan Sargeant, who is part of the Williams Driver Academy. He’s been strong in F2 this year, though his weekend in Hungary didn’t go to plan. Winning the title this year might be a stretch, so he could do a second season next year. But the American has impressed Williams chief Jost Capito and is in the frame for promotion if not next year then not too long after.
What’s going on next door at Alfa Romeo?
Zhou Guanyu has done a very decent job in his rookie year and suitably impressed Team Principal Frederic Vasseur with his performance on track and his approach with the engineers. He’s coped with the pressure of a nation and adjusted to life in F1 very quickly, while also getting on very well with Valtteri Bottas, who has a long-term deal with Alfa.
So, it’s a slam-dunk for a second year, then?
Not quite. Vasseur has to choose between him and Theo Pourchaire. The Frenchman will get a shot at an FP1 session at some point this year and has long been supported by Vasseur, with Alfa Romeo believed to be financially supporting the youngster. If he wins F2 this year – he’s only 21 points off the lead – it may be too hard to overlook him.
Crumbs, that’s a tough decision for Vasseur to make. Is it any easier for Franz Tost over at AlphaTauri?
Providing Yuki Tsunoda has a strong end of his second campaign, it should be a straightforward call for Red Bull and Tost to hit go on a third year for the Japanese driver. He’s made gains this year and while not as many as senior management would have hoped, the lack of a serious challenge from other Red Bull juniors means he’s being afforded more time to show what he can do.
And that just leaves Haas. Kevin Magnussen is contracted but will they stick with Schumacher?
It’s up in the air. Crucially, boss Guenther Steiner does not have to run a Ferrari-backed driver in the seat alongside Kevin Magnussen for 2023. He has free choice. He could still keep Schumacher, but it is believed that he is considering his options. Schumacher needs to go on an impressive run of results to retain his seat.
So if not Schumacher doesn’t get the nod, who might?
Haas is an attractive proposition. They have a solid car, a good team atmosphere and a straight-talking boss. It’s no surprise, then, that there has been a lot of interest in a seat there. Nico Hulkenberg and Antonio Giovinazzi are very much in the mix.