While the focus has been on the Alpine and McLaren fiasco with Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo, don’t sleep on another potential key player in Formula 1 silly season.
Formula 1 silly season ramped up last week after a rather calm start, and that’s putting it mildly.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel announced at the end of July that he will be retiring following the 2022 season, leaving his Aston Martin seat without a confirmed driver for next year.
Shortly thereafter, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso made the shocking announcement that he will be leaving Alpine for Aston Martin to replace Vettel next year.
Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri seemed to be the obvious choice to replace Alonso, but it was reported that this would not be as straightforward of a move as many believed.
Sure enough, after Alpine “confirmed” Piastri for their 2023 lineup, Piastri pulled an Alex Palou and denied the press release, stating that he won’t be competing for the Enstone team next year.
Despite an earlier rumor that Alpine would loan out the 21-year-old Australian to Williams as Nicholas Latifi’s replacement for next year, the way this situation was addressed indicated that Piastri didn’t turn down an Alpine seat just to drive the sport’s slowest car.
Plus, that rumor was always based on the idea that Alonso would re-sign with the team.
This sequence of events immediately placed the focus back on McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo, despite their apparent commitment to one another through the 2023 season.
While Ricciardo’s contract with the Woking team doesn’t end until next year, McLaren have reportedly informed him that they plan to replace him with Piastri. Piastri did sign with McLaren ahead of the 2022 season, joining their pool of reserve drivers.
Much of the silly season focus is still on Ricciardo, as he has been linked to the Alpine seat Alonso will vacate — and the one Piastri apparently turned down.
Other possibilities include Williams as Latifi’s replacement or Alfa Romeo as Guanyu Zhou’s replacement, should they decide to move on from the rookie after just a single season.
But one driver being ignored is one who could play an even bigger role in this year’s silly season, and that is Mick Schumacher.
Prior to his first two point-scoring efforts this summer, there were rumors that Haas may opt to cut ties with the 23-year-old German after just two seasons.
Those performances quieted those rumors for a while, but recent reports indicate that the American team plan to move on from the son of Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher following the 2022 season.
They have reportedly suspended contract talks with him after he lost his apparent leverage when Alonso took the Aston Martin seat for which Vettel had backed him.
Haas already know they have Kevin Magnussen, who returned to the team for the first time since 2020 this year as the late replacement for Nikita Mazepin, under contract through 2023, and Magnussen has outperformed Schumacher this year.
Interestingly, Ferrari could have at least some say in who gets the second Haas seat, and team principal Mattia Binotto has been reported to have lost confidence in Schumacher’s potential. In that case, Schumacher could technically cut ties with the Ferrari driver academy and seek to pursue his Formula 1 career elsewhere.
While his struggles have been evident, it could be a high-reward scenario for a team willing to take a chance on him, given his history. Following 12th place finishes in the standings in 2017 and 2019, he won both the Formula 3 European Championship and the Formula 2 championship in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
This is his second year in Formula 1, but it is his first year in a car built under the new rules and regulations, and there is little doubt that he has already made improvements.
Where might he end up if he leaves Haas? Could he join the Mercedes driver development program, or perhaps the Red Bull driver development program? Replacing Latifi at Williams is certainly an option, and AlphaTauri have yet to solidify their driver lineup for next year. While Alfa Romeo wouldn’t be an option, given their Ferrari ties, what about Alpine?