Africa-Press – South-Africa. Formula 1’s annual summer break is usually a time when teams and drivers fill vacant seats ahead of a new season. And with half of the ten teams confirming their 2023 line-ups, others are yet to fill one or both seats.
It opens the door for the annual round of musical chairs. Or, as it’s more commonly known, the Silly Season. This period is one of the most uncertain in F1 and anything can happen, as we’ve seen with the Alpine-Alonso-Piastri drama.
Former F1 driver Marcus Ericsson gave insights into how the 2023 season plays out and which drivers will end up where. Ericsson raced in F1 between 2014 and 2018. He competed for the Caterham team in 2014 before joining Sauber for the remainder of his career. In 2019, he joined the American-based Indy Series, winning the 2022 edition of the Indy 500.
The confirmed seats
F1’s top teams have their drivers for 2023 locked in. Red Bull Racing will continue with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, and Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. All four drivers have contracts until the end of the 2024 season, bar Verstappen who is contracted until the end of 2027.
Over at Mercedes-AMG, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are tied down for 2023, and McLaren continues with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo. Aston Martin recently announced that Fernando Alonso will replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel in 2023 and will partner Lance Stroll, son of the team’s owner, Lawrence Stroll.
And here’s where things are beginning to get tricky.
Ricciardo’s performances the last two years have left much to be desired, with it alleged that the team could activate an exit clause that will leave the Australian without a seat for next year. With Alonso jumping ship, his current team, Alpine, announced that reserve driver Oscar Piastri will fill the seat next to Esteban Ocon in 2023.
However, Piastri stated that there is no agreement between him and Alpine, fueling the rumour mill that he has a deal with McLaren to replace his fellow-Aussie next year.
So while five teams have their line-ups confirmed, the situation at McLaren could change in the coming weeks or months.
Ericsson predicted on his official Twitter account, following “Alonso’s middle finger to Alpine switch,” that more drama could unfold. Here’s what the Swede predicted and why.
Pierre Gasly is currently under contract with Red Bull Racing and its B-team, AlphaTauri. However, the Frenchman is increasingly frustrated by being overlooked to partner Verstappen again. He wants to race for one of F1’s top teams again, but it’s unlikely he’ll get the chance before 2025 when Perez’s contract expires.
Ericcson predicts that Gasly will wave the Red Bull pool goodbye and sign with Alpine, giving the French team two French drivers.
AlphaTauri: Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda are the team’s current drivers, but Gasly is comprehensively outperforming his Japanese teammate. The smart money would be to show Tsunoda the door and replace him with fresh talent, but he is heavily sponsored by Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s engine partner, Honda, ensuring his seat in 2023.
But with Gasly predicted to jump ship, the team could lure out-of-contract Mick Schumacher from Haas. The German is the son of Michael Schumacher and is a sure-fire talent for the future. Red Bull knows this and could groom the youngster to one day replace Perez.
Ericsson predicts that the team will continue with Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.
Haas: Kevin Magnussen returned earlier this year to replace the ousted Nikita Mazepin and has been on the pace from the get-go, comprehensively outperforming Schumacher. The team would be unwise to part ways with the Dane and will continue their renewed partnership.
But with Piastri touted to join McLaren, Ericsson predicts that Ricciardo will join the Ferrari-affiliated team.
Red Bull-backed Alex Albon made his F1 return with Williams this year and has been miles ahead of Nicholas Latifi. The Thai-British driver has lifted the team’s spirits and shows that his time and learnings from his Red Bull days are valuable. However, the same can’t be said of Latifi’s involvement, which is why the team could oust him by the season’s end.
Given Williams’ close association with Mercedes-AMG, the Silver Arrows could influence the team’s decision to sign one of its drivers, Nyck de Vries. De Vries is the current Formula E champion, racing for the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team and winner of the 2019 Formula 2 championship. He is one of a few examples of F2 champions who failed to secure an F1 seat.