The shock news the morning after a gripping F1 Hungarian GP is that Fernando Alonso will leave Alpine at the end of this season to replace the retrieving Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin. It appears Alpine have been stunned by this announcement because unlike Aston Martin who were ready just after Vettel’s retirement announcement with their statement, Alpine did not respond to the Alonso news.
The entire paddock appear shocked by this move from the Spaniard as Martin Brundle posted on twitter.
Well well well, the force of nature continues for a few more years. Great signing for Aston Martin. https://t.co/y8zn3XD1I7
— Martin Brundle (@MBrundleF1) August 1, 2022
Martin Brundle commented during the build up to the Hungarian GP he felt, “Alonso is nailed on to stay at Alpine, isn’t he?”
Even Fernando himself when asked in the drivers’ press conference the Thursday before the Budapest race told assembled reporters, “My priority is to be with Alpine because we’ve been working and developing this project together for two years now. We are more and more competitive and probably my wish is to stay.”
So what happened? Did Fernando think Alpine were being complacent?
Alpine F1 boss Otmar Szafnauer made it clear early July at Silverstone the plan was to open talks with Fernando later in the season.
“Because the season goes so late, in the old days, when we finished in October, the silly season was a bit earlier,” Szafnauer said.
“But now, yeah, we’re not going to December, but not far off. That’s good timing.”
When asked if there were any reasons Alipne would not resign the Spaniard, Szafnauer quipped: “I haven’t thought of it, but it’s a good question.
“He’s driving brilliantly and qualifies well, races well. That’s what it’s really about. But let’s think about that.”
Even at the Hungarian GP 3 days ago Otmar was asked about progress in the Alpine negotiations with their star driver.“Of course.”
“Very straightforward,” he replied and asked were there any big sticking points, the Alpine boss replied:
“No, not really. We’ve gone through all that. It’s just a matter of time. Just details. Little stuff.”
Given the timescales set for negotiations with Fernando and the uncomfortable silence from Alpine this morning its clear the team were not expecting this announcement.
TJ13’s comment following Vettel’s retirement announcement was that Aston Marton would recruit an experienced driver despite Sebastian naming his preferred choice to be Mick Schumacher.
Yet Alpine now look poorer for the loss of the double world champion.
There has been a buzz all year over the possible arrival of F3/F2 champion Australian Oscar Piastri on the F1 grid for 2023. Piastri joined the French F1 team’s junior academy in 2020 following his domination of the F3 championship.
Fellow academy drivers at the time included Christian Lundgaard who came second this weekend at the IndyCar race in Indianapolis and Guanyu Zhou who is driving for Alfa Romeo.
Alpine will surely be forced to sign Piastri now as there are no other experienced drivers available to partner Esteban Ocon.
Despite winning the 2021 Hungarian GP, with the help of team mate Alonso, Esteban Ocon does not look as consistent as Mercedes George Russell and will now have to step up and lead the drivers input into the engineering department at Alpine.
BREAKING: Two hours after Alonso’s announcement Alipine reply on twitter.
We wish Fernando the best for his future in Formula 1. Fernando has always been, and always will be, part of the Renault and Alpine family and we’re proud and privileged to have shared so many on-track moments together. pic.twitter.com/hyZOVdOKHb
— BWT Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) August 1, 2022
It could be Alpine were confident of re-signing Fernando and caught out by the shock announcement from Sebastian Vettel.
Yet driver contracts are not the matter of a few days negotiating. For Fernando to announce he is leaving to go to Aston Martin days after Vettel says he’s retiring means the two conversations were proceeding simultaneously.
Aston Martin desperately wanted to retain Sebastian Vettel and when they knew his decision was to retire they may have asked him to delay the announcement until they had Alonso nailed down.
In other words Aston have been controlling the process for a few weeks now.
Following Vettel’s retirement announcement prior to Friday practice at the Hungarian GP, Martin Brundle commented he knew it was coming at the previous race weekend in France. There Vettel had refused to confirm he was continuing with Aston for another season.
It may appear a retrograde step for Fernando to leave fourth placed Alpine and join Aston Martin, however tensions have been developing within the Alpine team over recent weeks as the Spanish driver believes the team management have not supported him fully.
In the Hungarian GP Ocon at the start almost shoved his team mate into the pit wall and Brundle commented “if that was any one other than your team mate, you’d be marching straight to the stewards.”
Aston Martin have clearly managed the process of Vettel leaving and Alonso joining expertly and Alpine look as though they’ve been caught out.
Alonso will have to hope that same expertise in recruiting him is applied to building a 2023 car in Silverstone that can beat his old French team, Alpine.