With a seat open at Alpine be sure no driver on the cusp of Formula 1 is sitting around in the sun waiting for better days during this summer break.
Fernando Alonso’s departure to Aston Martin to replace retiring Sebastian Vettel has triggered a series of unexpected events. And the phones are sure to be ringing all over the place.
Clearly, Aston Martin Big Billionaire Boss Lawrence Stroll sees the benefits of replacing an old F1 driver, which Seb is at 35, with an even older one, which Alonso is at 41. That marriage deserves and will get an Inside Line soon.
However, this is more of an Alpine story…
As Fernando steps away from the French outfit he won his two titles with all those years ago (2005 and 2006) the smart money would have been on the highly hyped and equally highly rated Oscar Pisatri getting a fit-out for Alonso’s seat.
A slam dunk deal until of course it bounced off the bar as the young Aussie (guided or misguided by Mark Webber?) did a deal to replace Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren, some say as soon as next year.
This means a payout for underperforming Ricciardo, whether it be cash, a drive with a NASCAR or Indycar team. According to Speedcafe, Dan wants to bank at least $20-million for his services or for not providing them, which means McLaren have to find the money.
This suggests that if Alpine indeed do the sensible thing and sign Ricciardo, and for argument’s sake only have $10-million in the budget for a second driver, then McLaren would need to fork out the balance.
Apparently, this is where the haggle is happening as Dan’s value has plummeted in the eyes of most, but he is sure to drive a hard bargain as he has a supposedly ironclad contract to be a McLaren F1 driver until the end of next year, in other words, the Ace is likely to be in his hands.
The former Renault F1 team shunned by two drivers they were banking on for the future
Meanwhile with Alonso and Piastri, who represented a short-term and long-term driver solution, clearly do not want to drive for Alpine, ironic as the French team is doing far better than Aston Martin and battling for McLaren in the F1 championship standings.
Hence Alonso’s move was a shocker as a two-year extension with Alpine was tabled and ready for his signature. But then came Vettel’s announcement; and very soon after the Spaniard was confirmed by Aston Martin, which means he finally has a Mercedes engine at his back.
But how smart is that move? Again a subject for another time.
So Alpine are obviously shopping around and, who knows, might resolve the whole saga amicably if they can do a deal with Ricciardo to return to Enstone/Boulogne-Billancourt.
As the F1 summer hiatus drags and amid the noise created by the Silly Season musical chairs, Pierre Gasly has also been mentioned as a possible candidate to partner Esteban Ocon at the French team. So much so that Helmut Marko had to clarify matters.
“There is no exit clause with Gasly, there wasn’t before the summer break and there won’t be after the summer break,” declared Marko in an interview on Sport1.
Furthermore, the word is Ocon and Gasly, although once pals, are not so anymore and in fact there is substantial animosity between the pair that ruined a friendship forged during their karting youth, much like Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, one imagines.
While the Gasly rumour/report is easy to dismiss/discredit for the abovementioned reasons, what it does suggest is that Alpine do not have many options if they want a decent driver in the second car.
Ricciardo is their best bet and arguably the 33-year-old’s only real option to remain in F1 and be competitive, provided he can find his A-Game again.
Nevertheless, what will transpire is anyone’s guess but what is sure, the F1 Piranha Pool remains as devious, perolous and cut-throat as it has ever been. Expect the unexpected. Watch this space!