The Formula One silly season is almost complete following the announcement at the Japanese GP that Red Bull Racing’s Pierre Gasly will replace the departing Fernando Alonso at Alpine. Gasly was under contract with the Milton Keynes driver programme until the end of 2023 and so Alpine have had to pay for the privilege to release him a year early to join the French.
Red Bull have in turned signed Nyck de Vries to drive alongside Yuki Tsunoda at their junior Alpha Tauri squad. De Vries was a free agent and because he manages himself there was also no management fee to pay when signing the young Dutchman for 2023.
Alpine had cheaper options
Alpine had several options besides Gasly and early rumours when Daniel Riccciardo was released from his drive a year early at McLaren was that he would be a good option given he’d been paid up for 2023 by the Woking based team.
This could’ve seen Ricciardo return to the Enstone based team where he races from 2019-2021 possibly for free.
Yet when drivers are paid off to leave a team, there is often a clause in the contract that they or their new employers must repay part or all of the settlement figure from the team releasing the driver before the end of their contractual period.
Why Fernando left F1 for 2 years
This is one of the reasons why Fernando Alonso took two years leave of absence from Formula One when he left McLaren. As part of his payoff there was a clause that meant McLaren would claw back a substantial portion of his payoff if he joined a team within his two years ‘garden leave’.
McLaren replaced Daniel Ricciardo with Alpine’s academy driver Oscar Piastri who the FIA board which rules on F1 driver contracts ruled was a free agent and hence Alpine received no remuneration from either McLaren or recompense from Piastri for his “training”.
Did Alpine overpay Red Bull
The amount Alpine paid Red Bull Racing has been undisclosed until today when Sky Sports News has revealed, Red Bull demanded an eye watering $10m for Gasly who joined their junior programme 9 years ago.
Pierre Gasly won his one and only GP in Monza 2020, though a number of unique circumstances arose to pave the way for this victory.
Gasly has scored just 23 points this season and compared to his highly experienced team mates 11 points many F1 observers believe he has not maximised his opportunity.
Hence the fee of $10m appears large for a driver who when given the opportunity to race for a front running team at Red Bull racing lasted just 12 races due to his uncompetitive performances.
Hulkenberg set for an F1 return
This leaves just Williams and Haas with vacant seats for 2023, given a retention option for Mich Schumacher has not been invoked by Haas.
Williams revealed at the Singapore GP that Nicholas Latifi would be leaving the grove based outfit at the end of his contract this season.
During the Japanese GP, paddock sources appear to believe Nico Hulkenberg is now the favourite to replace Mick Schumacher at Haas while Williams boss Jost Capito was effusive with praise about Schumacher’s potential F1 future.
Haas boss Gunther Steiner ruled out recruiting anymore junior drivers stating, “We’re done with inexperienced drivers”.
“That was a nice move!” 💙❤️
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) October 10, 2022