Everything in Formula One seems bigger and better in this post-Drive to Survive era we're in. The calendar is getting longer, the cars are sleeker, the coverage is deeper, and the viewers are more passionate than ever. Silly season the annual driver market merry-go-round has not escaped these dramatic times in F1, with some incredible events following Sebastian Vettel's retirement announcement.
If you haven't kept up to date, I feel it'd be simpler to catch you up on the lap-by-lap strategy mess from Ferrari at the Hungaroring than the days following the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix. In short, Fernando Alonso will drive for Aston Martin in 2022, and no one knows who will replace him at Alpine. Alpine hoped it would be 2021 Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri, but Piastri has publicly stated he will not be racing for Alpine in 2023.
A detailed analysis of what has transpired may never happen, thanks to contracts the public will never see, and rumors that incorrectly become facts. But, irrespective of accuracy, F1's summer break exploded into life with one crazy storyline that the producers of Drive to Survive won't need to exaggerate for dramatic effect. So let me try to detail what we know as fact before we move on to what could well be fiction.
Sebastian Vettel is retiring from Formula One. The German four-time champion will bow out of the sport he once dominated with a whimper rather than a bang after his move to Aston Martin for the 2021 season. The timing was a shock, but the news was not a surprise. Aston Martin hasn't provided a car that would consistently score points, let alone podiums for their star signing, so it's logical he wouldn't want to stay.
The part of the Rube Goldberg machine that caught most off-guard was that Fernando Alonso was so quick to jump into the Vettel-shaped hole at Aston Martin. Within a day of the summer break, news broke that Alonso and Aston would join forces in 2023 and beyond on a multi-year deal that'll see the Spanish driver racing in F1 until he's at least 43.
With Alonso leaving, Alpine sent out a press release the next day telling the world that Oscar Piastri, their long-time Academy driver, would step up to F1 in 2023 to take the seat vacated by the Spaniard. That seemed logical, but within hours, Piastri tweeted that Alpine didn't send the announcement with his approval and he would not be racing at Alpine in 2023. Since then, neither Alpine nor Piastri has issued a public statement, and F1 fans are on tenterhooks about what will happen next.
The rumor mill suggests that Fernando Alonso and his old adversary Mark Webber, now Piastri's manager, quickly orchestrated all the moving parts to embarrass Alpine. Alonso was allegedly frustrated by some comments by Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer when the Spaniard criticized his car's reliability and was unimpressed with the team only offering a one-year extension to his contract.
Meanwhile, Webber and Piastri wanted to be in F1 sooner than later and felt Alpine did not share the same urgency. So, with both parties sharing their employer as a common enemy and Alonso and Webber's long history together, there is certainly some credibility to speculation they conspired to give Alpine the middle finger.