So, Fernando Alonso is leaving Alpine. The 2-time Formulation 1 world champion’s transfer to Aston Martin for 2023, which got here collectively over the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, appeared to catch his present employer utterly off guard.
Having to interchange Alonso is a state of affairs Crew Enstone has been in twice beforehand, although undoubtedly not with the identical urgency with which it must resolve its present emptiness for subsequent yr.
It has a possible alternative on its books within the type of its reserve driver, Oscar Piastri, however who else on the F1 grid – and away from the paddock – must be within the reckoning for the drive? That’s the query we put to our writers.
It’d be eccentric for Alpine to chase anybody however Piastri
Piastri is the plain selection for the Alpine seat. To do the rest would symbolize admission of the failure of its driver technique.
Alpine has invested closely in Piastri’s profession. Whereas it made sense to work in the direction of putting him elsewhere whereas persevering with with Fernando Alonso, it might be eccentric to chase one of many restricted various choices having misplaced the Spaniard.
Piastri is as well-appointed as they arrive for F1, successful Formulation Renault Eurocup, Formulation 3 and Formulation 2 in consecutive seasons. And the 21-year previous has risen to the problem each time he steps up a stage.
Sure, there may be at all times a danger when choosing a rookie driver that they may wrestle to adapt. However Piastri seems to have the suitable mentality to take action. And if you step as much as F1, that’s at all times an important a part of the equation.
Meaning except Alpine has doubts about him rising from the check working he has accomplished, it ought to chunk the bullet and put him into the line-up.
If it doesn’t, then it might present the folly of failing to lock down Alonso’s deal and lift questions on its confidence in Esteban Ocon’s means to be its senior driver.
There’s at all times the temptation for a press release signing. However selecting Piastri can be a press release of its strategic sure-footedness.
However above all, it ought to go for Piastri not just because he’s there on its books, however as a result of it might be backing a driver with vital F1 potential.
The reply is straightforward
There are many choice for Alpine to select from to interchange Alonso and solely the staff actually is aware of whether or not it wants somebody with expertise or whether or not Ocon is as much as the duty. However for me, Piastri must be the primary candidate.
In what are speculated to be the important thing stepping stones to Formulation 1 – F3 and F2 – he has confirmed his race-winning and championship-winning capabilities. He received each championships in his first yr, simply as George Russell did. And everyone knows how properly he tailored to F1.
Alpine is a bit boxed in. If it goes for somebody with extra expertise like Ricciardo, Gasly or Albon, it exhibits a insecurity in Ocon to be a staff chief. If it goes for an additional up and coming driver with no F1 expertise, that exhibits Alpine’s personal theoretical stepladder to fame is a waste of time and that it has merely wasted a yr of a younger driver’s profession.
For me, the reply is straightforward. Piastri is the person for the job.
Herta suits into wider Andretti plan
Colton Herta! With Piastri going to McLaren.
Why so? Herta’s IndyCar staff Andretti remains to be forging forward with its F1 plans, which will likely be with Renault energy items. Andretti desires to be in F1 by 2024 however has nonetheless not been given the inexperienced gentle by F1 so let’s say it’s delayed till 2025. That’s doubtlessly two seasons for Herta, who’s hot-to-trot for F1 after his current assessments.
Renault badly desires one other staff utilizing its engine, particularly once we head into the brand new rules for 2026 and there’s growth to be finished. What about an association to get Herta established in F1 with Alpine forward of a Renault-powered Andretti entry?
Solely two choices will do for Alpine
Alpine represents a significant producer, it has huge ambitions, and it wants to interchange somebody like Alonso with a driver who displays the intention of the organisation.
Ideally, Alpine will get its Leclerc/Verstappen/Norris/Russell second, the place it indicators a extremely thrilling prospect to associate Ocon, who is only one rung beneath that group of names simply talked about.
So that you’d assume which means Piastri. However except for Norris, none of these drivers received their huge breaks as a rookie. Conservatism is rife in F1, notably among the many greatest groups. And Alpine is an enormous (midfield) staff.
If for no matter purpose Alpine is just not satisfied by Piastri then the choices are restricted. I can’t advocate any theoretically accessible choices like Alex Albon or Mick Schumacher. They’re protected, strong decisions – notably Albon – however they don’t provide a lot (or something) that Ocon doesn’t already.
Just one critical selection exists exterior Piastri. That’s Daniel Ricciardo. It is sensible for Alpine to be scoping him out. He’s a race winner, he’s doubtlessly accessible, and he labored properly with the staff for 2 years in 2019-20 (he’s additionally going to be a hell of rather a lot cheaper than he price them again then).
A reunion can be extra awkward for Ricciardo to just accept than Alpine, which didn’t need to lose him within the first place. Given Alpine is combating McLaren so intently this yr, Ricciardo returning might also be a lift that truly the staff wasn’t as rudderless or with as restricted potential as his exit made it first seem.
However the important thing factor is that each Alpine and Ricciardo are in very totally different locations now. The McLaren years haven’t been type for Ricciardo, who now has a possible exit technique (to a staff he is aware of he excelled in earlier than). Alpine is a really totally different organisation on the high now too, with the Laurent Rossi/Otmar Szafnauer axis.
The underside line is just two choices will do for Alpine. A top-class younger expertise or a longtime grand prix winner. It’s Piastri or Ricciardo. Each are dangerous so I’d lean for the long-term choice and learn the way good Piastri actually is.
Herta would do wonders for F1
It will appear a considerably terribly left-field selection, and everyone knows it has little likelihood of really occurring proper now. However Herta at Alpine would join a number of far-reaching dots in F1.
Though contracted to Andretti till the tip of 2023, Herta may need the chance for a comparatively excessive on expertise and low on expectation season with Alpine as a possible formal hyperlink between the 2 corporations is established.
Andretti has been pursuing a relationship with Alpine for a while now however it stays unclear if this has developed into a real alternative simply but.
Don’t underestimate the need that F1, at just about each stage, has to see a high American racer in F1. It’s increase time for the head of motorsport and business, viewers and advertising and marketing causes do come into consideration when the as soon as holy grail of an American breakthrough for F1 appears to have been achieved.
In the end although it may come down as to if a real Andretti and Alpine alliance might be signed off and actioned.
“It’s a objective of mine and has been for some time now,” stated Herta about reaching F1 after his McLaren check final month. That tallies with Andretti’s ambition too. And whereas the 2 targets want an entire lot of labor to mix in to 1 alternative, it might make for an interesting journey.
A Ricciardo reunion is value a shot – however may go both method
If Alpine is just too dedicated contractually or philosophically to Piastri needing a rookie yr some place else – or simply has doubts about him – and isn’t going to take the answer that’s on its doorstep, then a reunion with Daniel Ricciardo would both be sensible or a catastrophe.
I’d actually hope for the previous. I’m nonetheless satisfied that the final yr and a half is simply Ricciardo being unable to entry absolutely the magic of his true means at McLaren, not an indication that magic was a misleading phantasm or has been misplaced for good. A recent begin in a staff the place he succeeded earlier than is likely to be the perfect repair, and Ricciardo dropping again in and performing relative to Ocon simply as he did in 2020 can be loads ok for Alpine. A niche to Ocon like Ricciardo’s present hole to Lando Norris can be a waste of a seat, although.
After all if a Ricciardo reunion goes brilliantly and if Piastri does no matter Alpine desires of him elsewhere and appears too good to not take for 2024, then that’s an entire recent headache for Alpine.
Piastri hesitancy might be a scarcity of religion in Ocon
If Alpine was sure about Piastri’s talents, and it was solely seeking to mortgage him out to a different staff as a result of it didn’t have an area for him, then even when the Alonso information got here as a shock to the staff, it may in a short time react by confirming Piastri as Alonso’s alternative.
However what if it’s not a scarcity of religion in Piastri that holds up the method? If it hesitates over selling a driver with the Australian’s CV, and doesn’t give us a transparent purpose for it, may that purpose be a scarcity of religion within the man it might thrust into the position of staff chief: Ocon?
Given the lengthy contract Alpine has given Ocon, it appears unlikely. However should you suppose Piastri has the potential to be F1’s subsequent celebrity newcomer, absolutely you’d be prepared to throw him in on the deep finish should you consider the driving force on the opposite aspect of the storage will likely be able to getting absolutely the most out of the automobile race after race whereas Piastri will get on top of things.
Any unwillingness to decide to Piastri may trace at a scarcity of certainty over Ocon as a lot because it tells us what Alpine actually thinks of the F2 champion.
Alpine shouldn’t be on this place
The velocity with which Alonso’s transfer to Aston occurred has clearly caught Alpine off guard, so I’m nonetheless cautious to say the very fact it hasn’t introduced Piastri immediately means the staff has reservations about its reserve driver.
If it does, then of the stop-gap candidates accessible I’d be Alex Albon. Not solely has Albon reinvented himself this yr, however such a transfer would give Alpine the possibility to benchmark Ocon in opposition to considered one of his friends – and resolve whether or not he’s the type of driver it desires if it’s to ever develop into a high contender once more – and provides Piastri a goal to hit had been he to return within the following yr.
How troublesome that will be given relations with Crimson Bull is one other matter.
And but, I can’t get away from answering the query ‘which of the accessible drivers ought to Alpine decide to interchange Alonso?’ with ‘none of them; it ought to nonetheless be Alonso’s seat’.
There isn’t a method Alpine ought to discover itself on this place and it’s been complacent at greatest, grossly negligent at worst, by giving its two-time champion the possibility to stroll away.
That constitutes an enormous dropped-ball second, simply at a time the place on-track it’s proved it’s turned a nook.