Alonso switch sparks F1 driver market frenzy with Piastri and Schumacher ones to watch

By Sports Desk August 01, 2022

The first domino in the Formula One driver market has fallen with Aston Martin's confirmation that Fernando Alonso will be driving for the team in 2023.

Sebastian Vettel's retirement announcement ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix was always going to lead to movement on the grid but Alonso's move from Alpine is a significant statement of intent from the Silverstone-based team.

Alpine are currently vying for the best of the rest tag in 2022, alongside McLaren, while it has been a year to forget so far for Aston Martin – but they still boast one of the most recognisable brands on the grid and Alonso is a stellar acquisition.

There will be further movement, with a number of teams yet to confirm their full driver line-up for the 2023 season – with Alpine, Haas, Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri having one spot open, while Williams have not confirmed either driver.

That leaves six seats up for grabs as it stands, with some of the outcomes easier to analyse than others – Alonso's departure from Alpine solves their headache as it leaves a slot open for reserve driver Oscar Piastri.

The Australian was already heavily tipped to take a seat on the grid for 2023 but, with Esteban Ocon and Alonso at Alpine, just where that spot would open was up for debate, with a Williams move touted, but it should now be a fairly easy decision.

For Williams, it could result in the continuation of their partnership with Mercedes. With Alex Albon expected to retain his seat, a replacement for Nicolas Latifi is on the agenda and the leading option may now be Nyck de Vries.

Toto Wolff had already conceded that De Vries, who is on their young driver programme, could be let go in order for him to open avenues in F1, but a seat becoming available at Williams would be perfect for all parties – potentially lining-up De Vries as Lewis Hamilton's long-term successor.

Another option for Williams is Jamie Chadwick, who has dominated the W series and has her eyes set on a seat in F1, though she has expressed doubt as to whether women can cope with the physical demands of the series.

Seats at Haas, Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri are harder to assess but Mick Schumacher could play a pivotal role for the trio. Yet to be confirmed by Haas for 2023, the young Ferrari driver could make a sidewards move to continue his F1 career.

Given AlphaTauri's relationship with Red Bull, Alfa Romeo seems the more likely option for Schumacher if he was to depart Haas and an opportunity to drive alongside Valtteri Bottas could aid his development – though Alfa Romeo have a young talent of their own waiting in the wings in the form of Theo Pourchaire.

Felipe Drugovich, the runaway leader in F2 this season, and American Logan Sargeant are alternative options within the young driver ranks, while both have additional appeal due to their respective nationalities, Brazil and the United States, both of which are areas of growth for F1.

The break period in the F1 season is usually the time where teams line everything up for the next year, so the next few weeks before the season resumes in Belgium are likely to be extremely busy – and there could be some surprises in store.

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    Max Verstappen believes Red Bull are currently playing catch-up to McLaren, who sealed a lock-out in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday.

    Lando Norris clinched his third career pole at the Hungaroring, beating team-mate Oscar Piastri by 0.022 seconds with Verstappen 0.046 back in third.

    Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, meanwhile, crashed out in Q1 and will start the race 16th on the grid, casting further doubt on his future with the team.

    Red Bull started the 2024 season with three one-twos in the first four races, while Verstappen came out on top on seven of his first 10 outings.

    However, they have seen their sizeable advantage whittled down, with both McLaren and Mercedes pushing hard in recent races.

    Speaking after Saturday's final qualifying session, Verstappen said: "I tried, the whole weekend we have been a little bit behind, and I think that was also the case in qualifying.

    "I tried to make it as close as possible but unfortunately just not enough, a bit difficult to pinpoint why. I would have liked a bit more grip but it's not there at the moment."

    Verstappen finished second at the British Grand Prix last time out, having been fifth in Austria one week earlier – the first time he has failed to win at two straight races all year.

    "I love competition but I like being on top of the competition," the three-time world champion added. 

    "At the moment, I feel like we are chasing and having a few more difficult weekends, I don't back out of a fight but it's just a tricky situation I guess.

    "The last few races, especially the McLaren has been really good in the race, even compared to qualifying. 

    "Today was a lot colder than expected I guess with the clouds and the rain, tomorrow is going to be quite a different day and I just hope that will help us."

  • Russell bemoans qualifying 'disaster' at Hungarian Grand Prix Russell bemoans qualifying 'disaster' at Hungarian Grand Prix

    George Russell was left to rue "a fundamental error" that led to a "disaster" in Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying.

    The Mercedes driver will start Sunday's race towards the back of the grid in 17th place after suffering a shock exit in Q1 on a dramatic day of qualifying at Hungaroring.

    Russell did so as a result of his team failing to provide him with enough fuel in the wet-dry conditions.

    "There are two factors," he told Sky Sports. "The first was I didn't do a good enough job at the beginning. The second was we didn't have enough fuel to complete the session.

    "It was a disaster from both aspects. We should have got through comfortably. Not having enough fuel is a fundamental error from the team."

    There were better fortunes for Oscar Piastri, who finished in second place and just 0.022 seconds behind team-mate Lando Norris, ensuring McLaren's first lock-out in qualifying since the 2012 British Grand Prix.

     "It's cool to be here, especially when you get a result like this," he said. "Very happy, of course, but I missed out by two-hundredths, so you think of all the little things you could've done better.

    "We had a bit of a tricky day on my side yesterday, but it's nice to bounce back this morning and obviously this afternoon in [qualifying].

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  • McLaren in best place for Hungarian Grand Prix win, says Norris McLaren in best place for Hungarian Grand Prix win, says Norris

    Lando Norris is expecting to secure a second-ever Formula One victory after claiming his third career pole at the Hungaroring on Saturday. 

    Norris edged out team-mate Oscar Piastri and Red Bull's Max Verstappen as McLaren claimed their first lock-out in qualifying since the British Grand Prix in 2012. 

    McLaren now have the opportunity to reach 10 or more podiums for the first time since 2012 (13), with Norris also presented the chance to equal Denny Hulme as the driver with the eighth most podiums in the history of the British team.

    Norris beat Piastri to pole position by 0.022 seconds with Verstappen 0.046 back in a session that featured two red flags and changing weather conditions. 

    Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton will have to achieve a record 200th podium from fifth place, while Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc will start fourth and sixth respectively. 

    “I am very very happy, not an easy qualifying, different conditions, always ending up on top, it’s the best part of it all," Norris said.

    “I’m happy especially for the team, a one-two is even better to see so congrats to the team.

    “We are in the best position for whatever the conditions throw at us, I’m looking forward to it. Two cars on the front row, we can control it from there so as long as we stay where we are, we will be happy.

    “I’m expecting to [do well], if I don’t it’s not been a good day. The car is doing well, I feel like I’m driving well so it’s obvious what the aim is for tomorrow."

    Aston Martin duo Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll finished seventh and eighth respectively, with RB's Daniel Ricciardo finishing a place behind. 

    Yuki Tsunoda completed the top 10 but sustained a heavy crash in the final qualifying session.

    Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez endured another difficult time out on track, crashing out in the first qualifying session and will start 16th on the grid. 

    George Russell will also start towards the back of the grid after he and the Mercedes team were unable to recover from a poor opening wet-dry session. 

    Top 10

    1. Lando Norris (McLaren)

    2. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

    3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

    4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

    5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

    6. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

    7.  Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

    8.  Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

    9.  Daniel Ricciardo (RB) 

    10. Yuki Tsunoda (RB)

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