Fernando Alonso‘s decision to leave Alpine for Aston Martin has shocked the Formula 1 paddock, with the full extent of its ramifications still unknown.
As late as Sunday night, the expectation within the F1 community and Alpine itself was that the Spaniard would remain with the French outfit. Alonso himself suggested that when asked about his new contract prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“I would like to stay here, but there are two parties and I will not put a gun to the head of anyone,” Alonso said.
“Okay, we will open the negotiations. And as I said, you know, if we agree on something, it will be a 10-minute conversation and if we have to fight too much it will be longer.”
It seems those talks lasted longer than 10 minutes, as Alonso opted to spurn Alpine‘s offer and replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin.
The decision left the French outfit blindsided, with team principal Otmar Szafnauer stating he found out about the move from the Aston Martin press release.
Unfortunately for Szafnauer and Alpine, things have only gotten worse since then. Their snap decision to announce Oscar Piastri as Alonso‘s replacement has created a firestorm itself, with McLaren now in the equation as well.
Piastri boldly refutes Alpine seat
Prior to Alonso‘s move, Piastri had been linked with a loan move to Williams.
Since joining the Alpine junior driver programme in 2020 when the team were still Renault, Piastri has won Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles, only to see his path to F1 blocked by a crowded driver line-up.
The move to Williams would have seemingly benefitted both Piastri and Alpine. The 21-year-old would finally get his first taste of F1 action, while the team would keep hold of their promising starlet.
Instead, Alpine look set to lose two drivers in one fell swoop. Piastri‘s announcement that Alpine‘s press release was “wrong” and issued “without my agreement” is a bold move for a driver that hasn’t featured in an F1 race.
The fact he emphasised “I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023″ and “I will not be driving for Alpine next year” is something difficult to come back from.
While Alpine were busy figuring out what to do with Alonso, it appears Piastri and his team have been hard at work finding their own seat for 2021.
Are McLaren an option?
This is where McLaren enter the conversation.
Although Daniel Ricciardo recently stated he has no intention of leaving the sport, rumours continue to swirl regarding his future with the team.
His performances on the track continue to be less than inspiring, which poses the question: Have McLaren enticed Piastri and his team by offering him his compatriot’s seat?
Make no mistake about it, Ricciardo‘s future rests in his own hands. If he wants to continue in 2023, McLaren can do nothing about it.
However, has the 33-year-old finally had enough of the constant comparisons to teammate Lando Norris, who continues to be the lone bright spot for McLaren this season?
Or, have the Woking outfit convinced Piastri that they are best positioned to help him grow in F1? Whether that be with a guaranteed seat in 2024 once Ricciardo‘s contract runs out, or maybe, even as soon as next year if they’ve managed to convince the 33-year-old it’s best everyone go their separate ways sooner rather than later.
Either way, we haven’t heard the last of this situation, with Szafnauer even leaving the door open for Ricciardo to rejoin Alpine just years after he decided to jump ship.
With the fight for the 2022 Drivers’ Championship failing to offer the fireworks it did last season, it seems this year’s silly season is where the real entertainment is for F1 fans.