Formula 1: Dark horse replacement for Fernando Alonso?

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Formula 1 (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images)
Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Formula 1 (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images) /

While Oscar Piastri seems to be the obvious choice, could Alpine call upon somebody else to replace Fernando Alonso for the 2023 Formula 1 season?

Not even one full week after an Aston Martin seat opened up following the announcement that four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel plans to retire once the 2022 season ends, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso confirmed his switch from Alpine to Aston Martin for 2023.

The move came as somewhat of a surprise to most, considering recent reports which stated that Alonso and Alpine were in talks about extending the 41-year-old Spaniard’s contract through at least year next.

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With that being said, Alonso’s name was one that had been brought up as a possibility to replace Vettel, even before the 35-year-old German announced his impending retirement.

Not many had this whole sequence happening this quickly, however.

The top candidate to replace Alonso is, unsurprisingly, Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri, who many believe deserved a spot on the grid this year.

The former Alpine Academy member won the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup title, the 2020 Formula 3 Championship, and the 2021 Formula 2 Championship.

The interesting thing to consider here, however, is the fact that Piastri had been previously linked to Williams as Nicholas Latifi’s replacement. Of course, these rumors suggesting Alpine would loan their young star to the Grove-based team emerged under the assumption that Alonso would stick around at Alpine for another year, and that obviously isn’t going to be the case now.

But if Alpine were under the impression that Piastri was going to race elsewhere in his rookie season, are they suddenly willing to promote him straight to the organization?

Additionally, if a Williams deal had been agreed to, are Williams willing to let him go and thus put themselves in a bind when it comes to finding a second driver?

Don’t think for one second that Piastri to Alpine is as straightforward as it seems, even if it does happen. But if it doesn’t, who might replace Alonso instead?

Daniel Ricciardo’s name has emerged as an option amid his ongoing struggles in year number two with McLaren. Of course, Ricciardo has stated publicly that he plans to fulfill the rest of his contract with the Woking-based team, despite the rumors that he will give up his seat, and race there in 2023.

But as long as he holds an option not to return, there remains that possibility that he won’t be back, and the fact that there is ongoing speculation about his future, despite his confirmation, from reliable sources shows that it may not be as simple as we think it is.

And look no further than IndyCar to see that not all McLaren-related statements come to fruition (i.e., Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou saying he wasn’t talking to other teams, after having been heavily linked to McLaren, only to later announce he had signed with McLaren).

Now, there are, of course, a few questions here. Would Ricciardo really rejoin the team, then known as Renault, he was so quick to leave for his current McLaren seat?

His McLaren deal was confirmed even before his second season with Renault began, and let’s not forget that he gave up a Red Bull seat to join the French outfit. It did seem like he gave up on the project a bit quickly. How will it look if he opts out of a separate contract and wants back in?

And secondly, would he really take a one-year deal with Alpine just to keep Piastri’s seat warm for 2024? That’s what it would amount to, and it would almost surely amount to no ride beyond 2023.

For all we know, the idea of keeping Piastri’s seat warm for another year may have been part of what turned Alonso away, since he has since signed a multi-year deal, not a single-year deal, elsewhere.

In that case, wouldn’t Ricciardo just be better off staying where he is for another year, if he is serious about his plans to continue completing in Formula 1? And if he is serious about those plans, why wouldn’t he be serious about sticking with McLaren?

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Silly season has reached new heights across all of motorsport, with the word “confirmation” meaning very little. This is yet another situation to monitor not just on the surface, but because of the domino effect it could have throughout the rest of the grid.