The 2023 Formula One driver market has been somewhat a damp squib lacking the drama of the previous season. There Alonso caused the house of cards to collapse for Alpine when he announced his move to Aston Martin which saw the French owned team announce their prodigy Oscar Piastri as his replacement.
Piastri immediately denied on twitter he was driving for them this season and Alpine went into meltdown over alleged monies they had invested in the young Australian driver demanding reimbursement.
Logan Sargeant ahead of Lance Stroll
This year the speculation ran for months over Lewis Hamilton’s contract extension with Mercedes, but clearly the veteran F1 driver realised there were no better opportunities out there and decided to remain with the silver arrows despite flirting with Ferrari.
With most F1 pundits believing just the Williams seat is still up for grabs currently occupied by the failing Logan Sargeant, in Qatar a new twist to the plot emerged after Friday evening’s qualifying session.
Lance Stroll again failed to make it out of Q3, while his Spanish Aston Martin team mate demonstrated the car was capable of P4 on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Having qualified 17th behind both Williams drivers and ahead of only Zhou, Magnussen and Liam Lawson, Lance returned to the garage jumping angrily from his AMR23.
Stroll shoves his personal trainer
His trainer Henry Howe wagged a finger at his driver and approached young Stroll as he headed, helmet on, for the rear of the garage. The Stroll inexplicably shoved Howe violently through the door as the pair disappeared from the FOM camera’s view.
I short time later Stroll was interviewed in the media pen and his foul mood was evident for all to see. When asked how he felt about the session, Lance sullenly replied “Yeah, Shit.”
The interviewer tried again suggesting there was more to play for this weekend including the Sprint event but the seething Stroll Jnr retorted “I don’t know.”
The when asked how he would move forward from the disappointment Lance barked, “Just Keep driving” and turned on his heel and marched away.
Stroll points score4d woeful
Aston Martin clearly had the quickest car behind Red Bull for the first third of the season, with Alonso picking up 6 podiums in the first 8 F1 events. Since then McLaren have upgraded their MCL60 and stolen Aston’s thunder, but even now Alonso has 174 points to Lance Stroll’s 47.
The ratio is the kind a failing rookie driver would score against an experienced team mate and has hurt Aston Martin who will probably now finish the season in just 5th place.
Yet Lance is no rookie, he is now in his 7th season as a Formula One driver having debuted with Williams in 2017. Given the interview in Qatar, Lance is clearly under pressure4 of some sorts and even his billionaire father can only support his son’s F1 dream for so long instead of recruiting a driver who can deliver more points and the subsequent tens of millions in prize money for the team.
Aston Martin have signed a deal to partner with Honda as a works outfit for 2026 when the new F1power units will be revealed.
Tsunoda future confirmed
It now appears Honda are keen to ensure Yuki Tsunoda remains powered by them and are stepping up the pressure to ensure Aston Martin recruit the Alpha tour driver.
Tsunoda’s future with the Red Bull family appeared to be in jeopardy given the recruitment of Daniel Ricciardo and the excellent debut of the Aussie’s replacement Liam Lawson. Only in Japan was Tsunoda confirmed top be staying at AlphaTauri for another year and it now emerges it was Honda delaying the agreement.
Yuki is in his third year with AlphaTauri and the president of the Honda Racing Corporation Koiji Watanabe revealed:
Honda talking to Aston Martin
“(Franz) Tost-san and I agreed that we would first take a close look at the project for three years, and then evaluate it together and have a discussion around the summer of the third year,” he told as-web.jp.
“Basically, there was a common understanding that he was an indispensable driver for Alpha Tauri. The reason it took so long to make the announcement was because we were working out the details.
“We were discussing various things about how Honda should support Alpha Tauri until 2025. About how it operates.”
Paddock whispers suggest n fact Honda were exploring the possibility of Tsunoda replacing Lance Stroll at Aston next season and this was the reason for the delay.
“I hope Yuki will grow up”
When questioned about Tsunoda driving for the Silverstone based team in the near future, Watanabe was vague:
“Our goal is to become number one in the world with Aston Martin after 2026, so we don’t want to let go of the pieces necessary to achieve that.
“I hope Tsunoda will grow up and become an essential piece for us by then. And I tell Yuki ‘It doesn’t matter where you go, you can go wherever you can win’.
“If we are a team that can provide that space, we would like the drivers to come. And if we are a bad Honda team, I don’t think they will want to come.”
Marko suggests Tsunoda can leave Red Bull
However, the Yuki to Aston Martin story was given credence by Red Bull advisor Dr. Helmet Marko who told Sport 1. “Tsunoda is under contract with us.
“If Aston Martin were interested in him next year, they would have to come to an agreement with us first.”
Meanwhile the big paddock rumour this weekend is Aramco, the state Saudi Arabia oil company who sponsor Aston Martin, have approached Stroll senior with an €800m offer to buy the team.
Apparently Stroll is frustrated with the team’s progress and is losing motivation to keep investing in the F1 project.
Saudi bid to buy Aston Martin
Yet this theory is wafer thin in credibility. Stroll may well have bought Aston Martin to facilitate his son’s F1 career, but he is a successful businessman and knows the value of his acquisition is growing year on year. A recent financial publication valued Aston Martin at €1.14bn and so why would Stroll do a discounted deal?
As a pragmatist Lawrence Stroll has clearly decided enough is enough and his son is not delivering the points like his veteran team mate as clearly there is a reason for Lance Stroll’s outburst in Qatar.
This does open the door for Tsunoda to move to the Silverstone team and make way for the exciting New Zealand born rookie Liam Lawson at AlphaTauri.