There are now – in theory at least – just four of the 20 seats available for 2023. The signing of Yuki Tsunoda was no great surprise. Tsunoda is a Honda favourite and obviously very fast, but he has still has a lot to do before he becomes a candidate for anything other than an AlphaTauri drive. It is hard to imagine him moving up to Red Bull Racing to partner Max Verstappen. It is only a problem if things go wrong, but F1 teams must always look at what might happen if things do go awry.
Red Bull has Max Verstappen under contract until 2028, although there are almost certainly performance clauses in the deal if the team does not achieve certain goals. Sergio Perez has a contract until the end of 2024. This too will have performance clauses but what these might be is currently unclear. It is probably something like Sergio having to finish above a certain position in the Drivers’ championship. At the moment he is third and has collected 210 points. This compares poorly to Max Verstappen’s 335 points, but it is enough to mean that the team leads the Constructors’ Championship by 545 to 406. Sergio is within striking distance of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (who is second in the championship with 219 points) but is still under threat from the hyper-reliable George Russell, who has 203 points to his name. But could Perez be as competitive as Verstappen if the Dutchman was not there? This is why Red Bull confirmed Pierre Gasly for another season back in the early summer. They know that Pierre will leave in 2024 and so they are looking for someone to replace him and Dr Helmut Marko wants someone good.
Red Bull currently has four drivers in Formula 2: the best-placed in the championship is fifth-placed India’s Jehan Daruvala. He is in his third full Formula 2 season and coming up to 24 years of age and it is hard for an F1 team to get excited about someone who finishes fifth in the championship at their third attempt. The same can be said for seventh-placed Liam Lawson, at the end of his second full season. The best of the rookies is Honda protege Ayumu Iwasa, who is eighth in the championship, while Norway’s Dennis Hauger has had a disappointing year and is only 11th in the title race. One might also mention the 10th-place Estonian Juri Vips but he has blotted his copybook by making a racial slur during an online gaming stream. His future is, at best, clouded because without Red Bull support he is going to struggle to achieve much.
Marko’s focus (although this changes quite rapidly) is currently on Formula 3 hotshoe Isack Hadjar, who was in the running for the title until the last race weekend and ended up fourth. Hadjar is expected to move up to Formula 2 in 2023 and if he does well Marko hopes to take him into F1.
The recent weeks have seen much speculation that Marko would only release Gasly for Alpine if he could get IndyCar driver Colton Herta. This was very odd for a lot of reasons. Herta did not have a super licence, is under contract in IndyCar for 2023 and had a testing programme planned with McLaren. One might argue that Marko was never really serious and was simply stirring things up with McLaren and Alpine, or to divert attention away from the melt down between Porsche and Red Bull. Perhaps Marko does rate Herta highly, but he also knows that bringing in someone without a comprehensive European racing background is going to be a massive challenge.
It is fairly clear that Alfa Romeo is going to stick with Guanyu Zhou for a second season.
The Alpine seat vacated by Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri (in quick succession) is still available. The team has Jack Doohan (who does have a super licence) on its books, although he may not be quite ready. There is also Nyck de Vries, Mick Schumacher, Antonio Giovinazzi and… Pierre Gasly.
Getting Pierre involves a lot of effort. It does not help that Esteban Ocon and Pierre do not get on.
At the moment everyone is talking about de Vries, but it has time to see if American Logan Sargeant can qualify for a super licence. He has done well, battling for third in the championship (and the best rookie spot) with Doohan. It would give Williams a young charger to learn from Alex Albon… and an American at that.
Haas is waiting to see what happens and does not need to commit to anyone for the moment at least.