Whilst most of Europe slept, AlphaTauri and Alpine announced the worst-kept secrets in Formula 1, with Pierre Gasly departing the Red Bull family to form an all-French superteam at Alpine whilst Nyck De Vries finally got his long-awaited promotion to Formula 1 with AlphaTauri for the 2023 season.
Although many paddock judges had expected these signings, the significance is enormous for the Formula 1 driver market, which has been in a tailspin since Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement from F1 in late July.
Gasly had been confirmed to stay at AlphaTauri in June but will now get his second chance at a big team three years after being left high and dry by Red Bull Racing.
For De Vries, his promotion to Formula 1 ends years of him waiting and finally gives him a chance to compete alongside his karting rivals who made it to Formula 1 before him.
But it’s not just the futures of De Vries and Gasly that have been changed by Alpine’s announcement, with some scoring big from the Dutchman’s promotion whilst others were left licking their wounds.
Nyck De Vries
One of the obvious winners from this news is De Vries, who secures a full-time drive in Formula 1 three years after winning the Formula 2 championship with ART Grand Prix and a Formula E World Championship with Mercedes in 2021.
Following his super sub performance at Monza, De Vries’s stock rose dramatically, and when Colton Herta was denied a super licence, AlphaTauri snapped up the Dutchman to partner Yuki Tsunoda.
De Vries arrives at a team in transition but still with plenty of potential, and with Sergio Perez’s contract running out at the end of 2024, the move to AlphaTauri might be the springboard he needed to secure a plum drive in the sport.
De Vries’ arrival was confirmed roughly the same time as Gasly’s departure to Alpine was announced, bringing to an end his five-year relationship with AlphaTauri which has seen the Frenchman take the team to new heights which included a famous win at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.
The team had initially retained Gasly for 2023 on a one-year deal that would leave his long-term future in the sport in doubt if a seat at another team didn’t open up for him.
But when Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri jilted Alpine at the alter over the summer break, the team needed to quickly find a driver who was young quick and didn’t cost an eye-watering sum to keep ticking all the boxes in Gasly’s favour.
Although there are some drawbacks, it seems Gasly has come out the big winner out of the shakeup as he will remain at Alpine on a multi-year deal securing his future in Formula 1.
With De Vries leaving his third driver role at Mercedes, Red Bull have secured a major scalp over the Brackley based outfit at a time when the two teams are at war on and off the track.
It also comes at a time when no Red Bull junior is ready or good enough to be promoted to Formula 1, meaning that the team has had to look outside its junior programme to find a suitable driver for its sister team.
Red Bull Racing’s lead driver Max Verstappen even played a part in the deal after suggesting to De Vries over dinner the day after the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, that he called Helmut Marko to help along a move which would pay dividends for all parties.
De Vries and Gasly’s subsequent signings meant it was the end of the road for Daniel Ricciardo and the Australian later confirmed that he would take a sabbatical before attempting to come back in 2024.
Ricciardo had been searching for a drive since being released from his McLaren contract in mid-August and was rapidly running out of options by the time the Formula 1 circus rolled into Asia.
Things might have been a little different if AlphaTauri had elected to bring Ricciardo back to mentor Tsunoda but the idea of a promotion back to Red Bull Racing once his second stint at AlphaTauri was over would have been far fetched.
Mercedes would have felt aggrieved that they couldn’t get De Vries a seat in Formula 1 and to hear he had elected to go to their biggest rivals would have possibly probably added salt to the womb.
However that isn’t the case as Mercedes’ technical director Mike Eillot confirmed in an interview with Motorsport.com that he was happy to see the Dutchman get a drive in Formula 1: ‘‘I think for us as a team, it’s a shame to see him go somewhere else but at the same time we’re really pleased for him.’’
Eillot’s comments however do hint at what Mercedes will be losing, De Vries was not only an excellent third driver for the team but he also a key team player who was useful in helping developing the car and doing simulator work.
Williams had been in the running for De Vries when rumours began to emerge that the team was looking to replace Nicholas Latifi at the end of the year ,even if Oscar Piastri was first on Williams’ shopping list.
Latifi’s position in the team looked even more perilous when he was outpaced by the De Vries when he took part in FP1 for the team at the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix with Latifi’s fate being sealed at Monza being outpaced and outscored by De Vries who had far less experience with the team’s FW44.
But hopes of signing De Vries to partner Alex Albon came and went when AlphaTauri swooped in forcing Williams to continue to look for a driver good enough to partner the former Red Bull driver.
The possible candidates for the second seat include Haas’ Mick Schumacher who is on shaky ground at the American and Williams academy driver Logan Sargeant currently lying third in the Formula 2 championship and on course to secure the 40 points required for a super licence.
Although Sargeant and Schumacher both have their strengths and weaknesses but it seems for a team that is still struggling at the back of the grid it would have been better to have De Vries in to help move the team forward.