The “chair dances” in Formula 1 started earlier this season. The swap of Sebastian Vettel for Fernando Alonso at Aston Martin for 2023 has preempted speculation and rumors about what the category’s grid will look like next year. At the moment, five places are open in the championship, all between medium and small teams.
The move opened last week. Holder of four world titles, Vettel surprised by announcing his retirement from F1 at the end of the year. Until then, Specialist Vehicles had already taken their renewal with Aston Martin for granted. Recent statements from the German have also indicated his F-1 permanence.
Vettel’s announcement on Thursday was complemented by more unexpected news on Monday. Alonso will be his replacement at Aston Martin. Again, recent statements have led the specialized press to believe in an almost automatic renewal of the double world champion with Alpine, the team for which he distinguished himself this year.
These changes have shaken up speculation and put three candidates in the spotlight to become F1 rookies in 2023: Australian Oscar Piastri and American Logan Sargeant, both 21, and Dutchman Nyck de Vries, almost a veteran, 27 years old. The trio have their eyes set on five places still open for 2023.
In practice, the five seats on the grid become only four because one of them belongs to Canadian Lance Stroll. Without a contract with Aston Martin for 2023, Lance is the son of team owner Lawrence Stroll. He is therefore unlikely to leave F1 next season, despite uneven results.
The other drivers without a contract are Chinese Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo), Japanese Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Canadian Nicholas Latifi (Williams) and German Mick Schumacher (Haas). Of this quartet, those least likely to continue in F-1 are Tsunoda and Latifi, due to their poor performance and repeated mistakes.
Latifi even took the risk of leaving the category even before the halfway point of the championship. Piastri and Sargeant are strong contenders for that 2023 seat. Prior to Alonso’s deal with Alpine, last year’s Formula 2 champion was all but certain to join Williams, despite Piastri’s role as a Alpine reserve.
With the departure of Alonso, the Australian can establish himself as the holder of the French team, teaming up with Esteban Ocon in 2023. Piastri and Sargeant, third in the current F-2, are also candidates for Tsunoda’s place at AlphaTauri. Guanyu, with no vacancy for next year, praised Alfa Romeo and has a good chance of renewing his contract. At Haas, Michael Schumacher’s son can continue as a starter as he has strong support from Ferrari, a Haas partner team.
But all that could change in the face of a remote possibility, yet corroborated by McLaren management in recent weeks. In a recent interview, Zak Brown revealed that there are mechanisms in Daniel Ricciardo’s contract which could allow the Australian to leave at the end of this year. He has a contract until the end of 2023.
Ricciardo did not please the traditional British team which could lose the place if it did not react in the second half of the championship, which will resume at the end of August, with the Belgian GP. An early departure from the Australian driver would redistribute the chairs, allowing for further surprises in Formula 1 news.
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