This time last year was a difficult period for Alpine, who were at the centre of the driver market as they lost Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin and their highly-rated reserve Oscar Piastri to McLaren.

    Fast forward to now and it’s an equally difficult time in terms of a massive senior management shake-up – but they can take comfort in having stability regarding drivers with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly signed up for next year. So with that line-up settled, where does the excitement lie on this year’s driver merry go-round? F1 Correspondent Lawrence Barretto has had a dig around to try to sharpen the current picture… 

    Hamilton and Mercedes on course to continue into 2024

    The best seat still technically available for 2024 sits at Mercedes alongside George Russell – but in reality it’s a matter of when, rather than if, Lewis Hamilton finally puts pen to paper to keep it in his possession and extend his stay at the Silver Arrows.

    Neither Mercedes boss Toto Wolff nor Hamilton appear stressed by the amount of time it is taking to get a new deal over the line. They’ve both said that the key terms – including money and length of the arrangement – have been agreed.

    It’s just, as Wolff puts it, “trivial things that need to be cleaned up” in the contract before it all gets signed off.

    READ MORE: Wolff 'doing everything I can' to make Hamilton stay at Mercedes beyond 2023

    Hamilton has left it late to sign a new deal in the past. It wasn’t until the eve of pre-season in 2021 that he inked a one-year extension to race in that upcoming campaign. Just six months later, he penned a new two-year deal, taking him up to the end of 2023.

    ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP
    Wolff and Hamilton are said to be close to finalising a new contract for the seven-time champ

    The 38-year-old reckons he can race on for at least another five years, the Briton believing he still has what it takes to win a record eighth world championship.

    And having spent his whole career with the Mercedes family, from backing in karting to making his F1 debut with the Mercedes-powered McLaren team to spending the last decade with the works outfit, it’s more than likely he’ll continue with the Silver Arrows for the foreseeable.

    READ MORE: 'Never say never' – Hamilton gives his verdict on whether Mercedes can win a race before the end of the season

    Williams backing Sargeant to come good

    With Red Bull, Aston Martin, Ferrari, McLaren and Alpine having sorted their line-ups for next year and Mercedes all but done, Williams represents the next best seat based on current championship position.

    The British team, who sit seventh in the standings, already have highly-rated Alex Albon tied up for 2024. On the other side of the garage, rookie Logan Sargeant has had a solid but unspectacular start to life in Formula 1, and knows he needs to up his game to stick around for another season.

    SPA, BELGIUM - JULY 29: Logan Sargeant of United States driving the (2) Williams FW45 Mercedes on
    Williams are keen to give Logan Sargeant the chance to impress this year

    Williams have thrown their collective arm around the American’s shoulders and tried to keep the pressure off him in a bid to help him find a rhythm. They are backing him to succeed and earn a second campaign in blue – but he needs to not only find consistency but also close the gap to Albon, particularly in qualifying, and get himself on the scoreboard.

    If he doesn’t, his seat is under threat. Mick Schumacher would be an obvious contender, having briefly had talks with the team last year and having kept his hand in through his Mercedes reserve role, where he has earned public praise for his efforts from Hamilton and Russell.

    READ MORE: Our writers look back on 2023 so far and predict what's to come in the second half of the season

    Haas expected to retain their line-up for 2024

    Owner Gene Haas was in town in Hungary and Belgium – and that provided the ideal opportunity for him to sit down with Team Principal Guenther Steiner and Nico Hulkenberg to thrash out a new deal for the German.

    Hulkenberg has excelled on his return to Formula 1 with the American squad, delivering impressive speed and consistency on a Saturday and scoring nine of their 11 points this season. Sources say a deal to continue the partnership is close.

    BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - APRIL 30: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Haas F1 and Kevin Magnussen of Denmark
    Will the Nico Hulkenberg / Kevin Magnussen line-up continue at Haas into 2024?

    Kevin Magnussen is a popular figure within the Haas operation and is responsible for the team’s only pole position to date – achieved last year in Brazil. He’s been outshone by Hulkenberg so far this year, but it is believed Gene Haas and Steiner have seen enough to want to extend his stay into 2024. Talks are on-going and believed to be very positive.

    Having had their hands burned trialling an inexperienced line-up that brought funding, Haas have flipped back to experience – and it’s paying dividends with the American team in the fight to finish seventh in what would be their best finish since 2018. It’s almost certain they will name an unchanged line-up for 2024.

    READ MORE: Magnussen admits 'frustration building' at Haas but says there is 'reason to be optimistic'

    Zhou the frontrunner to retain seat at Sauber

    Valtteri Bottas already has a deal to race for the Sauber-run Alfa Romeo team next year, the Finn having signed a three-year contract that began in 2022 – but his team mate Zhou Guanyu still needs to put pen to paper if he is to stay on the grid for a third year.

    The Chinese driver has upped his game in 2023, outshining his more experienced team mate Bottas for large chunks of the campaign and it is understood talks have already begun between Zhou’s management and the team about extending the partnership.

    BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 23: Zhou Guanyu of China driving the (24) Alfa Romeo F1 C43 Ferrari on
    Zhou is doing all the right things to keep his seat for next year

    From what I understand, it is likely Zhou and Sauber (the team drop the Alfa Romeo moniker from 2024 onwards) will agree a deal for him to race on for 2024, which means he’ll get the chance to race F1 on home soil at the Chinese Grand Prix for the first time.

    Intriguing times at AlphaTauri

    AlphaTauri are enduring their toughest season since a rebrand for 2020, with the Italian team languishing at the bottom of the constructors’ championship – and yet despite their struggles, seats at their operation are among the most sought after.

    READ MORE: Ricciardo says he’s ‘fallen in love’ with F1 again as he admits Red Bull return is his ‘dream’

    With Laurent Mekies set to take over as Team Principal, having been Sporting Director at Ferrari, and Peter Bayer stepping in as CEO, a new era is dawning at Faenza.

    The team is expected to have a very close relationship with sister team Red Bull, which will likely see them take a significant amount of parts from the reigning world champions (as permitted by the rules) and that in turn should make them a more competitive operation.

    Ricciardo's Return Interview - “I’m not scared of anything. I’m ready”
    Ricciardo's Return Interview - “I’m not scared of anything. I’m ready”

    It's part of the reason why Daniel Ricciardo would have preferred to return to F1 with the team next season but instead seized the opportunity ahead of Hungary when they parted ways with Nyck de Vries.

    The Australian wants a return to Red Bull – but first he must sufficiently impress at AlphaTauri. The most likely scenario is that he excels at the Italian team, which sees him keep the seat for 2024 and puts him in a very strong position to replace Sergio Perez next to Max Verstappen at Red Bull in 2025.

    READ MORE: How Ricciardo got a second chance with stunning AlphaTauri return

    But if Perez struggles in the second half of the season and Ricciardo delivers, they could move him up next season.

    Regardless of what happens with the Australian, on the other side of the garage Yuki Tsunoda is doing everything right to secure a fourth season with the team. He’s stepped up to lead the team and comfortably outperformed De Vries. The Japanese racer looks like a more mature, all-round driver this year, having found ways to harness his speed and cut out the mistakes.

    SPA, BELGIUM - JULY 30: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Scuderia AlphaTauri prepares to drive in the
    Yuki Tsunoda is primed to stay with AlphaTauri for 2024

    Sources say he is overwhelming favourite to retain his seat for 2024, providing he continues the strong form he’s consistently delivered this year.

    Should Ricciardo not deliver or if he steps up to Red Bull, Liam Lawson is head of the queue to get the nod for the other seat, the New Zealander just one point off the championship lead in Super Formula. Ayumu Iwasa is a contender, too, but it is thought the F2 racer, currently third, would benefit from a third campaign in F1’s feeder series.

    READ MORE – POWER RANKINGS: How our judges score the drivers heading into the F1 summer break

    Ferrari already looking beyond 2024

    While Ferrari have Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz signed up for 2024, their respective deals expire at the end of the campaign.

    Sources say Ferrari have already opened talks with Leclerc and are keen to lock him down with a new multi-year contract. The Italian team are also believed to be keen to retain Sainz, though it is likely they will sort Leclerc’s contract first before getting the Spaniard’s deal finalised.

    Sainz is in a good position though. The 28-year-old is believed to be highly-rated among Ferrari’s engineers and has proved he can deliver consistency – he’s scored points in all but two races this season. And sources say he’s had a flurry of interest – both formal and informal – from multiple rival teams for his services in 2025.

    MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 18: Ferrari F1 drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc chat post-race during
    Ferrari are already working on new contracts for Sainz and Leclerc

    To read on, sign up to F1 Unlocked for free

    You'll unlock this article and get access to:

    Free Wall_Article.png