The upheaval caused by Sebastian Vettel’s retirement and Fernando Alonso’s decision to leave Alpine has created shockwaves in the Formula One driver lineups for 2023. In what should have been a fairly benign ‘silly season’ with just a few drivers from lower order teams out of contract, the final few races of the 2022 calendar is now set for some shock surprises given the vacant seat at top team Alpine.
Alpine are still claiming they have a contract with their Australian academy driver Oscar Piastri and the FIA contracts recognition board (CRB) sat on Monday to decide upon this claim. The white smoke has not yet emerged from this austere body yet it is likely their decision will not force the Aussie to remain within Alpine e’s clutches but rather decide on if compensation is due to the French outfit and how much.
Otmar Szafnauer stated at the recent Belgium GP, “My wish for Oscar was that he had a bit more integrity.
“He signed a bit of paper back in November and we’ve done everything on our end of the bargain to prepare him for F1 and his end of that was to either drive for us or take a seat where we would place him for the next three years.”
Surely the trust is now broken between Alpine and Piastri and he will not race for them in 2023. There is still the small possibility if the CRB agree Piastri’s contract is enforceable, they could place the Aussie with Williams as was expected when team offered Alonso one final season.
Piastri clearly feels aggrieved given he won the F2 championship last season it was fellow Alpine academy Chinese driver Zhou Ghuanyu who was placed in F1 with Alfa Romeo.
However, despite all the expectations that Piastri will drive for McLaren, team principal Andreas Siedl remained thin lipped over the issue when asked in the press conference 5 days ago.
Of course McLaren will not comment on their overtures to Piastri while his contractual status is unclear, however, McLaren have implied they are considering more than one driver to replace the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo.
Into the mix drops a ‘wild card’, Colton Herta.
Herta is a highly regarded young Indycar racer who completed 2 seasons in Europe in a junior formula. The Californian has 7 wins in his first 4 full Indy seasons and had scored a best championship finish of 3rd in 2020.
F1 CEO has previously encouraged Haas to look at Herta as the F1 commercial rights holder would love an American driving in Formula One. With the addition of Las Vegas making three US races in 2023, this attraction is now even more highly prized.
Colton drives for Andretti at present who are making overtures to F1 to be allowed to enter a new team, yet Mario Andretti reveals he has been “pushing like hell” for Colton to get an F1 seat regardless.
“He’s very quiet and unassuming. He’s not pushy, but I see a quality there,” added the the American racing legend. “A Formula 1 quality.”
Of course McLaren engaged Herta for a two day test earlier this year in Portico. The Senior Principal and Car Performance Engineer at the test, Mark Temple, described Herta as “very professional, very attentive and very responsive.”
It appears Herta’s work ethic impressed the team from the off as he completed 162 laps and 750km over the two days.
“He was very good at discussing what was going on with the car,” Temple revealed.
“The first area drivers usually take a little bit of time to learn is how much speed they can carry into the high-speed corners. Turn One at Portimao is quite fast and requires commitment – you really have to throw the car in, and so naturally, it took him quite a while to build up there.
“The other area was braking. Working out how late to brake and getting the balance between braking and steering right when going into the corners, so that you can carry as much speed as possible without hurting the exits. Those are areas where he progressed and built on during the test.”
Today motorsport.com have revealed the FIA are looking at granting Herta an F1 super license despite at present the Californian being short on points to qualify.
In the convoluted chain of events created by the uncertainty over Piastri’s future, Alpine are allegedly looking at recruiting Red Bull racing driver Pierre Gasley to set up an all French driver pairing for the French F1 team.
This would leave a slot in the Red Bull junior team who are known for recruiting inexperienced but exciting prospective drivers into Formula One.
The problem with this is to gain enough points for a super license, he would have to compete this season in an F1 race because free practice outings don’t give him the total points required.
Could it be Alpha Tauri offer the American this opportunity?
If so would this also be a signal that Andretti Motorsports Global may have a route into Formula One by buying the Alpha Tauri team given owner Dietric Mateschitz has indicated he will not go on forever?
McLaren have certain contractual relations with Herta but to grasp Piastri they would be certainly open to a deal.