The Latest Formula 1 Shitshow Explained

Formula 1 Row Topshot

If you’re even slightly interested in Formula 1, you probably know that all hell has broken loose over the past few days. From driver disputes to unsecured seats, let’s wipe up the Formula 1 shitshow and explain exactly what the hell is going on.

Vettel Retires, Alonso Moves In, Piastri Moves On

2022 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix Sunday
Photo credit: BWT Alpine F1 Team

Since the Belgian Grand Prix isn’t scheduled until August 28, Formula 1 is currently on its summer break. Break time is affectionately known as “silly season” in racing circles, and this season seems sillier than most. See, it all started when four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel announced his upcoming retirement at the end of the 2022 season. This opened a seat up at Aston Martin, and Aston wanted an experienced household name to fill its vacancy.

Cue Fernando Alonso, two-time world champion and current Alpine F1 driver. While Alpine is a fairly competitive team, Alonso only signed a two-year contract with Alpine in 2021 and therefore would’ve been a free agent in 2023 provided no contract extension was in place. Online outlet motorsport.com reported in July that Alpine and Alonso would commence contract extension talks after summer break was over, but news of the upcoming vacancy at Aston Martin gave team Aston Martin team owner Lawrence Stroll the opportunity to sweep in and scoop up Alonso.

To say Alonso’s move was a bit of a blow to Alpine would be an understatement. ESPN reported that Alpine learned of Alonso’s departure through Aston Martin’s press release. Ouch. Not to worry, Alpine could just ready reserve driver Oscar Piastri, right? The young Australian won the 2020 Formula 3 world championship, has been testing with Alpine F1 for 2022, and would be a good fit to fill Alonso’s shoes. Sure enough, Alpine announced on Tuesday that Piastri would drive for the team full-time in 2023.

Great news! Unfortunately, this great news lasted for all of one hour and 49 minutes. Shortly after Alpine’s tweet went out, Piastri fired back with a tweet of his own.

I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year. This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.

Um, what? Did someone in Alpine’s PR department have an itchy trigger finger, or was Alpine so sure that Piastri would drive for them that confidence was there to issue a statement. Either way, this development presents a massive problem for both Alpine and Piastri. Alpine has an empty seat next year, while we have absolutely no clue where Piastri will end up.

Rumors Of An Alpine-McLaren Switch

2022 Hungarian Grand Prix Saturday
Photo credit: BWT Alpine F1 Team

So what about the recent rumors that Oscar Piastri could replace Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren? Well, we’ll have to see if they play out. Sky Sports reports that Piastri’s had recent conversations with McLaren management, but Daniel Ricciardo released a statement last month that he’s committed to McLaren through 2023. Still, there is some logic to the McLaren rumors. Alpine is doing fairly well as a team, and Piastri likely wouldn’t wish to drive for a less successful team. In addition, Alpine appears as if it could be open to the idea of Ricciardo coming back to the team. Motorsport.com asked Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer about Ricciardo on Wednesday and received a rather interesting response.

“I mean, if you look at Fernando, for example, he comes and goes, and I think that happens to other drivers too,” he said.

“And I don’t think that’s an issue at all. I think what we need to focus on is, like I say, the plans that we have for the next 89-88 races.

“We’ve got to make sure that we complement that plan with the best driver that we can, and there are some options out there for us. And we put the best driver in next to Esteban [Ocon], so that we can move forward towards what we’ve been planning.”

Right, so it sounds like Ricciardo joining Alpine might not be completely off the table. However, something else isn’t off the table. Alpine still believes it has a valid contract with Piastri, so this whole thing could play out like Jenson Button’s 2005 legal battle when Button left Williams for BAR-Honda, only to attempt to re-join Williams. In the end, Button stayed with BAR-Honda. If Piastri did indeed sign a contract with Alpine and if that contract is valid, Piastri might still drive for Alpine.

What Might Happen To Unsecured Seats

Williams Hungary 22
Photo credit: Williams F1

As of right now, five Formula 1 seats are potentially up for grabs. The list of drivers who haven’t yet announced 2023 season plans go as follows: Mick Schumacher at Haas, Zhou Guanyu at Alfa Romeo, Yuki Tsunoda at AlphaTauri, and Nicholas Latifi at Williams. What might happen to these four drivers? Let’s have a look.

Mick Schumacher’s seen solid improvement this year. Despite landing zero points in 2021, Schumacher currently has 12 points in this year’s driver standings, aided by finishing eighth in England and sixth in Austria. Most importantly, Schumacher seems to be consistently improving. It’s always good to see a driver’s best performances be fairly recent, and Schumacher has solid brand recognition. However, Schumacher also has two DNFs this year, one due to mechanical failure and one due to a collision. Plus, Schumacher doesn’t appear to have the best relationship with his team. While any speculation that Schumacher may leave Formula 1 after this season seems a bit wild, the future seems a bit uneasy for the German driver. However, even if Schumacher leaves Haas, I have doubt that Piastri would want to join a team that’s behind Alpine in the standings.

Yuki Tsunoda is right behind Schumacher in the driver standings at 16th place and 11 points, although Tsunoda’s performance has thus far peaked fairly early in the season. His last top-ten finish came in Spain on May 22, and he’s since experienced one mechanical DNF and one DNF due to locking up the brakes and crashing coming out of the pit exit in Montreal. Still, Tsunoda shows promise and could very well maintain a position at Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri. According to GP Blog, Tsunoda has good rapport with engine supplier Honda, which just announced powertrain support through 2025 with Red Bull Powertrains. This tie-in could be good news for the Japanese driver.

Zhou Guanyu has shown excellent performance this season despite his current position of 17th in the standings. We’ve seen some brilliant driving from Zhou, and he’s quickly become one of Formula 1’s hottest rookies. Save for the British Grand Prix where Pierre Gasly set off a massive crash that inverted Zhou’s car, all of Zhou’s DNFs so far are due to reliability issues. With two finishes in the top ten over nine completed races, Zhou seems like a driver worth keeping on. I reckon that Zhou’s fairly safe at Alfa Romeo.

Alright, so what about Nicholas Latifi? Well, Williams released an announcement on Wednesday that a multi-year deal has been reached with current driver Alex Albon, although the team remains silent on Latifi’s future prospects. It’s not a huge secret that Latifi is the only full-time driver to land zero points this season, which really isn’t a great spot to be in. Plus, German newspaper Bild reports that Williams engine supplier Mercedes wants to see Nyck de Vries replace Latifi. Could Latifi be released from Williams? It’s certainly possible, but I wouldn’t call it certain just yet.

Wrapping It All Up

Needless to say, this dispute between Alpine and Piastri could get ugly. I believe the technical term for this situation is “a clusterfuck.” Regardless of what happens, it’s going to be interesting watching the silly season play out. The Belgian Grand Prix is only a little more than three weeks away, so expect any new developments to fly fast. Hopefully everything gets resolved amicably, promising rookies keep their seats, and the second half of the Formula 1 season kicks off without too much drama.

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14 Responses

  1. Now the latest news says that McLaren is buying out Ricciardo’s contract at the end of this season… what a wild week. Hope he gets to land on a team where he can prove his mettle.

  2. The public shaming of Alpine by Piastri is full douche-baggery. This could have been handled quietly, leaving a company that invested a fortune in him a modicum of dignity.

    The toes you crush on the way up are often connected to the asses you need to kiss on the way back down.

    1. We have no idea how they treated HIM, though. There’s a reason Ricciardo and Alonso both got out as soon as they contractually could, and now Piastri ran the first chance he got, too. The word is that Otmar Szafnauer is a gigantic a-hole. He basically fired Alain Prost because Alain knew more than he did and flat out told him ‘I don’t need your consultation anymore. I know what I’m doing.’ Then you have Ocon trying to fight with Alonso on track to the detriment of their race finishes, the fact that the cars aren’t very competitive and it’s a recipe for ‘I don’t want that at all.’ There’s also the possibility that they kept stringing Piastri promising ‘soon, soon, soon!’ and then didn’t actually pick up his 2023 option, so Piastri said ‘Cool, I’m out.’

  3. williams wants sargent in seat next to albon, mercedes would prefer williams put devries in that seat.
    ricciardo to alpine makes sense for everyone except ricciardo.
    and don’t forget mclaren is entertaining the idea of either pato o’ward or colton herta in ricciardo’s seat ( i dont see norris going anywhere… until hamilton’s seat is available)
    schumacher is not his father…and is ferrari academy driver, so probably not moving anywhere except maybe to alfa romeo (until they switch engines in ’26 – so too far out to be a consideration).
    poor pierre gasley signed with alpha tauri thru next year, he’d love to be a second french driver with ocon at alpine (renault).
    they don’t call it silly season without sound reasons.

  4. Personally I think Williams is seriously considering putting American Logan Sargeant in Latifi’s seat for 2023. He’s already in the Williams junior program and as long as he finishes the current F2 season 3rd or above in points, he’ll have enough Superlicense points to drive in F1 next year.

    That’s my rooting interest anyway, let’s see how right I turn out to be.

  5. Also worth noting that before the Alonso move the rumor was that Piastri would be replacing Latifi at Williams. It’s likely that’s what led to the talks with McLaren in the first place, as he’s a pretty hot commodity and would rather drive for a more competitive team than Williams in its current form.

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