With Sebastian Vettel announcing his shock retirement during the Hungarian GP, this opened the flood gates for the annual silly season to kick off right as we approached the summer break. Whilst Vettel’s announcement caused shockwaves throughout the paddock and brought one of the most successful F1’s careers in history to an end, it would signal the start of what can only be described as complete mayhem.
Fernando Alonso, in typical Fernando fashion, dropped a bombshell announcing that he would be joining Aston Martin for the 2023 season on a multi-year contract that Alpine were supposedly unwilling to offer the 2-time world champion. This appeared to catch the Enstone team by surprise as it took them 90 minutes to release a statement acknowledging Alonso’s decision, clearly showing that he had pulled the rug out from underneath their feet. With this shock decision causing a meltdown within the F1 circle, many assumed that Oscar Piastri would be the obvious successor and would be granted a seat with Alpine for the 2023 season, given that he was their reserve driver and was being lined up for an F1 seat prior to Alonso’s move to Aston Martin.
Following what many assumed to be an automatic decision for Alpine, they announced that Piastri would partner Ocon in 2023 and replace Alonso for his rookie season. Although this move seemed inevitable, people quickly began to highlight a few odd details that didn’t quite add up. In contrast to what would usually be expected from a standard announcement many began to point out that in Alpine’s announcement there were no quotes from the F2 champion confirming this move nor were there any posts of his behalf to solidify that he would be Alpine’s new driver for 2023. The timing of the announcement also left a few people scratching their heads as the tweet was sent out at 5.11pm GMT which would be 2.11 am in Australia, a seemingly strange time to reveal that the Australian driver would be joining the team. By this point it became increasingly clear that Alpine were frantically scrambling to put out an announcement to get on top of Alonso’s departure, as F1 journalist, Adam Cooper revealed, Otmar Szafnauer has no idea that Alonso was leaving until he saw it in the media. In spite of Alpine’s rushed announcement, it seemed as though they had managed to somewhat salvage the situation even if that meant promoting Piastri to the team much sooner than they thought, but no one could have foreseen what was to follow.
As time ticked on there was radio silence from Piastri’s camp and this all but confirmed that everything was not as it seemed, then almost two hours after Alpine’s announcement Piastri released his own statement to confirm that he would not in fact be racing for Alpine in 2023! In a week filled with pandemonium and drama this was perhaps the biggest revelation and it only took 2 days of the summer break to cause complete chaos in what was, on the face of it, a relatively boring and predictable silly season. Piastri’s defiant statement then led to an abundance of questions surrounding which team he would be joining in 2023 if not Alpine. Although he was previously linked to a Williams seat, this was under the assumption that Alonso would be staying with Alpine for 2023, since this is no longer the case it is now widely believed that Piastri was in talks with McLaren to replace Ricciardo for the next season. Despite Ricciardo insisting in recent weeks that he will be serving out his full contract with McLaren this is beginning to look more unlikely as the Piastri-McLaren rumours begin to grow. Nothing has been confirmed by McLaren as of yet, but this does harken back to comments made earlier in the year by Zak Brown regarding the “mechanisms” in place in Ricciardo’s contract that could bring his time at McLaren to a premature end.
So, how could Alpine let this happen in the space of 24 hours? Whilst it has not been confirmed it is believed that Alpine were completely caught out by Alonso’s move, and they had also failed to provide Piastri with a contract by the required date as stated in his contract. There are rumours that suggest that Alpine gave Piastri the go ahead to talk with other teams and secure a seat for next year before they had finalised Ferando’s 2023 contract. This major oversight has led to one of the biggest blunders by a team, possibly in the history of the sport, as they have managed to throw away the driver that brought two world championships to the team and has undoubtedly been one of the best drivers on the grid this year, even taking that team up to the front row and the Canadian Grand Prix. In addition, they have also managed to throw away their future with Oscar Piastri jumping ship right when they needed him most.
With silly season well and truly in full swing we now await a pending announcement, presumably from McLaren, to put an end to the commotion that has been caused in the first two days of the summer break.