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  • Reese Mautone

Contract Talks Reach Boiling Point As Silly Season Kicks Off During The F1 Summer Break

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

One week into the summer break has been anything but relaxing as Formula 1’s annual game of musical chairs causes chaos up and down the grid.

Marking the beginning of the mid-season headlines, 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement effective at the end of the 2022 season ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Vettel unexpectedly joined Instagram on July 28, sending the social media world into a frenzy, however, the excitement was short-lived when the German posted the heartfelt retirement announcement on his account the following day.

“The decision to retire has been a difficult one for me to take, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about it,” Sebastian Vettel said in his Instagram statement.

"My goals have shifted from winning races and Championships to seeing my children grow, passing on my values and being able to learn from them."

Although Vettel’s decision was not a total surprise, the timing came with little warning to his team with Vettel confirming that he only informed Aston Martin of his final decision just days before the announcement.

The 35-year-old’s seat being vacant for 2023 led to an onslaught of rumours for his replacement.

Suggestions of the permanent return of Nico Hulkenburg to the grid floated around the paddock, along with predictions for Mick Schumacher, who is out of contract with Haas and has left the FDA, to fill his father-like role model’s empty seat, however, neither eventuated and instead F1 fans and Alpine alike were both shocked when a press release announcing that Fernando Alonso had signed with Aston Martin for 2023 and beyond was publicised.

Although Alonso has previously been on Aston Martin and Lawrence Stroll’s radar prior to signing Sebastian Vettel in 2020, Aston Martin was not seemingly on Fernando Alonso’s radar this year.

"I have known and admired Fernando for many years and it has always been clear that he is a committed winner like me,” Lawrence Stoll, Executive Chairman said on the hiring of Alonso.

In Aston Martin’s statement, Alonso said: “I still have the hunger and ambition to fight to be at the front, and I want to be part of an organisation that is committed to learn, develop and succeed.”

To make an unfortunate situation even worse than Alpine losing their 2-time World Championship winning driver alone, it was later revealed that the team was only made aware of the Spaniard’s decision through the public press release.

“The first confirmation I had was the press release. I did ask the question and I was told: ‘No, no, I haven’t signed anything.’ So I was a bit surprised,” Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine Team Principal, said to Autosport.

In addition to the lack of warning, Alonso made contact between himself and Alpine difficult as he informed Szafnauer that he was vacationing “in the Greek Isles somewhere”, later sharing posts on social media confirming he was in fact in Spain.

To rub salt in the wounds for the French team, when Alonso’s presumed successor, former F3 and F2 Champion and Alpine’s reserve driver Oscar Piastri was announced, chaos ensued.

Just hours after the press release was published announcing Piastri as being “promoted” to Alonso’s replacement for 2023, the Australian put out a statement of his own, denying he had signed with Alpine.

“I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year. This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year,” Oscar Piastri posted on social media.

Piastri, who has long been involved with the French team through their academy program and as a reserve driver, seemingly has a contract lined up with Mclaren, looking set to take the seat of fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo for 2023.

Despite Ricciardo being Mclaren’s last race winner, the Australian’s lack of consistency and underwhelming performance this season has resulted in the fan favourite being informed of Mclaren’s decision to replace him with Piastri after the Hungarian Grand Prix, according to ESPN.

With the potential for Mclaren, Piastri and Alpine to have ended up intertwined in legal battles, Mclaren took Piastri’s assumed contract to the FIA contract recognition board where it was then validated, allowing for the Australian to drive for the team in 2023.

Ricciardo is rumoured to have expectedly been in contact with Alpine, his former team, looking to secure his old seat alongside Esteban Ocon, a move in which Szafnauer doesn't think will be “an issue”.

With the announcement of Alex Albon continuing on with Williams on a multi-year contract, there are now only five seats officially available for the 2023 F1 grid; those being at Alpha Tauri, Alpine, Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams.

Across the summer break and heading into the second half of the season, announcements regarding who will be filling those positions are almost certain to flood headlines and social media.

Despite so much off-track drama, the on-track action will resume on August 26-28 at Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix.


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