So, Fernando Alonso is leaving Alpine. The 2-time Components 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 exchange Alonso is a state of affairs Workforce 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 is the query we put to our writers.
It would 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 different choices having misplaced the Spaniard.
Piastri is as well-appointed as they arrive for F1, profitable Components Renault Eurocup, Components 3 and Components 2 in consecutive seasons. And the 21-year previous has risen to the problem each time he steps up a degree.
Sure, there’s at all times a danger when choosing a rookie driver that they may battle to adapt. However Piastri seems to have the correct mentality to take action. And while you step as much as F1, that is at all times a significant a part of the equation.
Which means until Alpine has doubts about him rising from the take a look at operating he has accomplished, it ought to chew the bullet and put him into the line-up.
If it would not, then it might present the folly of failing to lock down Alonso’s deal and lift questions on its confidence in Esteban Ocon’s potential to be its senior driver.
There’s at all times the temptation for a press release signing. However selecting Piastri could be a press release of its strategic sure-footedness.
However above all, it ought to go for Piastri not just because he is there on his books, however as a result of it might be backing a driver with important F1 potential.
The reply is straightforward
There are many possibility for Alpine to select from to exchange 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 needs to be the principle candidate.
In what are speculated to be the important thing stepping stones to Components 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 reveals a insecurity in Ocon to be a staff chief. If it goes for an additional up and coming driver with no F1 expertise, that reveals 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 Andretti’s plan
Colton Herta! With Piastri going to McLaren.
why? Herta’s IndyCar staff Andretti remains to be forging forward with its F1 plans, which can be with Renault energy items. Andretti needs to be in F1 by 2024 however has nonetheless not been given the inexperienced mild by F1 so to illustrate it is delayed till 2025. That is probably two seasons for Herta, who’s hot-to-trot for F1 after his current assessments.
Renault badly needs one other staff utilizing its engine, particularly once we head into the brand new laws for 2026 and there is improvement to be achieved. 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 massive ambitions, and it wants to exchange somebody like Alonso with a driver who displays the intention of the group.
Ideally, Alpine will get its Leclerc/Verstappen/Norris/Russell second, the place it indicators a very thrilling prospect to associate Ocon, who is only one rung under that group of names simply talked about.
So that you’d assume meaning Piastri. However except Norris, none of these drivers acquired their massive breaks as a rookie. Conservatism is rife in F1, notably among the many greatest groups. And Alpine is a giant (midfield) staff.
If for no matter motive Alpine is just not satisfied by Piastri then the choices are restricted. I am unable to advocate any theoretically obtainable choices like Alex Albon or Mick Schumacher. They’re secure, stable selections – notably Albon – however they do not provide a lot (or something) that Ocon would not already.
Just one critical selection exists outdoors Piastri. That’s Daniel Ricciardo. It is sensible for Alpine to be scoping him out. He is a race winner, he is probably obtainable, and he labored properly with the staff for 2 years in 2019-20 (he is additionally going to be a hell of quite a bit cheaper than he price them again then).
A reunion could be extra awkward for Ricciardo to just accept than Alpine, which did not wish to lose him within the first place. Given Alpine is preventing McLaren so intently this yr, Ricciardo returning may additionally be a lift that really 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 completely different locations now. The McLaren years have not been form 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 completely different group on the prime now too, with the Laurent Rossi/Otmar Szafnauer axis.
The underside line is barely two choices will do for Alpine. A top-class younger expertise or a longtime grand prix winner. It is Piastri or Ricciardo. Each are dangerous so I would lean for the long-term possibility and learn how good Piastri actually is.
Herta would do wonders for F1
This may appear a considerably terribly left-field selection, and everyone knows it has little probability 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 nevertheless it stays unclear if this has developed into a real alternative simply but.
Do not underestimate the will that F1, at just about each degree, has to see a prime American racer in F1. It is increase time for the head of motorsport and business, viewers and advertising causes do come into consideration when the as soon as holy grail of an American breakthrough for F1 appears to have been achieved.
Finally although it might come down as to whether a real Andretti and Alpine alliance may be signed off and actioned.
“It’s a aim of mine and has been for some time now,” mentioned Herta about reaching F1 after his McLaren take a look at final month. That tallies with Andretti’s ambition too. And whereas the 2 targets want a complete lot of labor to mix in to 1 alternative, it might make for an enchanting journey.
A Ricciardo reunion is value a shot – however might go both method
If Alpine is simply too dedicated contractually or philosophically to Piastri needing a rookie yr some place else – or simply has doubts about him – and is not going to take the answer that is on its doorstep, then a reunion with Daniel Ricciardo would both be sensible or a catastrophe.
I would actually hope for the previous. I am nonetheless satisfied that the final yr and a half is simply Ricciardo being unable to entry absolutely the magic of his true potential at McLaren, not an indication that magic was a misleading phantasm or has been misplaced for good. A contemporary 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 could be a lot ok for Alpine. A spot to Ocon like Ricciardo’s present hole to Lando Norris could be a waste of a seat, although.
After all if a Ricciardo reunion goes brilliantly and if Piastri does no matter Alpine needs of him elsewhere and appears too good to not take for 2024, then that is a complete contemporary 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 trying to mortgage him out to a different staff as a result of it did not have an area for him, then even when the Alonso information got here as a shock to the staff, it might react in a short time by confirming Piastri as Alonso’s alternative.
However what if it is 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 would not give us a transparent motive for it, might that motive be a scarcity of religion within the man it might thrust into the function of staff chief: Ocon?
Given the lengthy contract Alpine has given Ocon, it appears unlikely. However when you suppose Piastri has the potential to be F1’s subsequent famous person newcomer, certainly you would be prepared to throw him in on the deep finish when you consider the driving force on the opposite facet of the storage can be able to getting absolutely the most out of the automotive race after race whereas Piastri will get in control.
Any unwillingness to decide to Piastri might trace at a scarcity of certainty over Ocon as a lot because it tells us what Alpine actually thinks of the F2 champion.
Alpine should not be on this place
The velocity with which Alonso’s transfer to Aston occurred has clearly caught Alpine off guard, so I am nonetheless cautious to say the actual fact it hasn’t introduced Piastri right away means the staff has reservations about its reserve driver.
If it does, then of the stop-gap candidates obtainable I would be taking a look at Alex Albon. Not solely has Albon reinvented himself this yr, however such a transfer would give Alpine the possibility to benchmark Ocon towards one in every of his friends – and determine whether or not he is the sort of driver it needs if it is to ever grow to be a prime contender once more – and provides Piastri a goal to hit have been he to return within the following yr.
How troublesome that will be given relations with Pink Bull is one other matter.
And but, I am unable to get away from answering the query ‘which of the obtainable drivers ought to Alpine choose to exchange Alonso?’ with ‘none of them; it ought to nonetheless be Alonso’s seat’.
There is no such thing as a method Alpine ought to discover itself on this place, and it has been complacent at finest, 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 is proved it is turned a nook.