As of this writing, Red Bull, Ferrari, And Mercedes have their driver lineups confirmed through 2023. A quick look at contract expiration dates reveals that nine of Formula 1’s driver seats could be open for 2023. However, much like a Formula 1 car, things are far more complicated under the surface.
Who will end up where? Will a potential future race winner finally get a chance in 2023? Will the grid lose two former world champions after 2022? What does the future have in store for Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly? And are the driver seats in the top three teams truly solidified?
Contracts ending in 2022
At the end of the 2022 season, 9 driver’s contracts are set to expire. However, some drivers are unlikely to move due to extenuating contract circumstances. Unless Lawrence Stroll truly wants to put together a driver lineup to compete for the world championships, Lance Stroll will likely be with Aston Martin until he retires.
Alex Albon is currently contracted to Red Bull, but is driving for Williams. This arrangement ends at the end of 2022, but could be extended. It’s a similar story for Mick Schumacher, who is contracted to Ferrari and is driving for Haas until the end of 2022.
Rookie Zhou Guanyu will likely remain in Formula 1 next year, and will likely remain at Alfa Romero. Yuki Tsunoda and Nicholas Latifi’s contracts both end at the end of 2022. Expect Tsunoda to remain at Alpha Tauri. I’m not sure if there is enough sponsor money to keep Latifi driving in Formula 1 in 2023 and beyond.
The former World Champions in the Mid-field
Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are both former multi-time world champions near the end of their careers. Both of their contracts end at the end of 2022
If Vettel wants to continue in F1, his options are currently limited. It’s unclear what Vettel will want to do at the end of 2022 but if his form continues and improves throughout the season, Vettel may find the desire to compete in 2023. If Vettel does leave the grid in 2022, Formula 1 will be losing an excellent elder statesman, activist, and spokesperson on the grid.
Despite not having the results to show for his efforts, Alonso has driven very well since returning to Formula 1 in 2021. Alonso has declared his desire to race for a few more years, but where on the grid that could be outside of Alpine is very limited.
Further complicating Alonso’s future in F1, is future race winner Oscar Piastri. Formula 1 media, insiders, and racing enthusiasts alike speak glowingly about Piastri’s F1 potential and the injustice that a driver of his caliber does not have a seat in F1, in 2022.
Piastri is Alpine’s reserve driver and will be somewhere on the grid in 2022. That opportunity may come at the expense of Fernando Alonso. If that happens
Contracts ending in 2023 and Daniel Ricciardo
Five driver contracts end in 2023. Kevin Magnussen at Haas and Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton are all signed through 2023.
The big question mark is McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo. Since joining McLaren, Ricciardo has struggled, often being outperformed by Lando Norris. Ricciardo’s corner-entry style does not suit the McLaren, and his confidence in the car and performance on the track have suffered.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown and Ricciardo have both been active in the media about Ricciardo’s future with the team. Ricciardo even declared he was retiring at the end of the year, walking that back not long after Formula 1’s Las Vegas Debut was announced – a race location Ricciardo has wanted on the calendar since his Red Bull days.
If Ricciardo leaves chooses to end his contract earlier, the McLaren seat will be the most coveted spot in the off-season. If Ricciardo decides to stay until the end of 2023, his future in F1 is unclear. What is certain is that Ricciardo’s time competing at the front of the grid is likely over.
Contracts ending in 2024 and Beyond
Ferrari has both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz under contract until 2024. Valterri Bottas at Alfa Romero and Esteban Ocon at Alpine are both signed through 2024, while Lando Norris is signed to McLaren through 2025.
Red Bull, Alpha Tauri, and Pierre Gasly
Red Bull has Max Verstappen signed to 2028 and recently signed Sergio Perez until 2024. Pierre Gasly is still under contract to Red Bull until 2023. After a disastrous half a season as Verstappen’s teammate, Gasly has shown great improvement and character with Alpha Tauri. Gasly is always a threat to qualify in the top 6 and has shown great pace since the demotion to Alpha Tauri.
In fact, when Perez was struggling in the RB-16B in 2021, I believed that Gasly’s performance was good enough to earn him a second chance with Red Bull. If I was Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, Pierre Gasly was my Red Bull driver to partner Verstappen in 2022, at this time last year.
Perez’s performance in the second half of the season changed that. Perez got a handle on a difficult-to-drive Red Bull, becoming Verstappen’s “Minister of Defense” against Hamilton in 2021’s season finale in Abu Dhabi, and sealing Checo as a “legend” and a Red Bull driver in 2022.
Alongside Perez’s teamwork, Checo’s form to begin the 2022 season more than earned the two-year extension he recently signed with Red Bull. This leaves Gasly with no path to the top Red Bull team until 2024 at the earliest. So, in reality, where can Pierre Gasly go to improve his standing on the grid?
Gasly uses a similar corner-entry style as Ricciardo, so a move to McLaren might not be the best option for a move. Any other mid-field seat available would be a lateral move at best. So, Gasly’s best option seems to be to remain at Alpha Tauri, hoping for a chance in a Red Bull again, in 2024.
The Wildcards: Andretti Autosports and Lewis Hamilton
Andretti Autosports has been making aggressive overtures to join the formula 1 gird as an 11th team. While Formula 1, the teams, and the FIA need to negotiate and agree to terms to accept an 11th team, Andretti has been doing their due diligence to be on track as soon as possible. Andretti joining the F1 grid isn’t going to happen in 2023, but If (when) Andretti join the F1 grid, two new seats will open in Formula 1, creating opportunities for drivers to launch or prolong F1 careers.
Lewis Hamilton is the greatest driver of his era and one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. Hamilton has struggled and grappled with the 2022 Mercedes W-13 so far this season. Only a few months ago, in a black Mercedes, under different technical rules, Hamilton was driving in the best form of his career. Hamilton was on the verge of an 8th world championship before it disappeared.
Hamilton could retire at the end of the season. If Mercedes does not improve their car concept enough by the end of the year and Hamilton doesn’t see the potential to fight for a record-breaking 8th world championship, what is his motivation to return?
If Hamilton decides to retire, the Mercedes seat will be the most coveted on the grid. Can you imagine George Russell and Lando Norris competing alongside each other for Mercedes, next to the current Red Bull and Ferrari tandems? Or how about Pierre Gasly leaving the Red Bull organization for Mercedes? Is Andretti Autosport joining F1 or Hamilton retiring the opportunity Gasly is most primed to benefit from?
“Silly season” or the Formula 1 summer break is fast approaching. When the teams hit the track in Belgium in August, we will have answers and clarity as to who will be where on the grid for 2023.
Next Race – Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Next up on the Formula 1 calendar: the streets of Baku and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, June 10-12, 2022. Next up for us: a betting preview for qualifying and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix later this week.
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