News that Fernando Alonso will join Aston Martin for the 2023 Formula 1 season goes a long way to completing next year’s grid.
Alonso was a central figure in the silly season, with the 41-year-old expected to remain with Alpine for another two seasons.
That stability was expected to see Oscar Piastri forced to find a berth elsewhere, with Williams the most likely option.
Monday’s announcement means that it is now not the case and, barring official confirmation, we can safely assume the Aussie will slot into the seat vacated by Alonso.
There is, in reality, no other choice for Alpine – to do anything else would totally undermine the very existence of its driver academy.
With Esteban Ocon on a long-term deal, the Enstone squad’s line up for 2023 is therefore complete.
And so it joins the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, and McLaren with confirmed pairings going into next season.
Despite rumors and constant speculation surrounding Daniel Ricciardo, there is little to no chance of the Australian being moved aside.
There could always be a shock move – it’s often said contracts in Formula 1 come with lubrication – but in reality, there are no drivers on the market who could parachute in and do a better job.
Elsewhere, there are a number of other teams yet to confirm their line-ups, though much can be inferred from their current form and attitudes.
Aston Martin, for instance, has never formally stated what the duration of Lance Stroll’s contract is, but it can safely be assumed he will continue driving for the team owned by his father next season.
At Scuderia AlphaTauri, Team Principal Franz Tost has suggested that Yuki Tsunoda will get a third year in Formula 1 as he continues his development.
It’s fair to take that on face value too, as there is also nobody currently on the Red Bull conveyor belt ready to replace the at-times wild Japanese driver.
Similarly at Alfa Romeo Sauber, Valtteri Bottas is on a long-term deal while Guanyu Zhou is almost certain to retain his seat.
The Chinese driver has performed well enough and the team, most notably Fred Vasseur, its Team Principal, is happy with how the rookie has progressed.
The same can be said of Haas, where Mick Schumacher has bounced back from a rocky start to the 2022 campaign, scoring points in Silverstone and Red Bull Ring.
Though he earned the scorn of Guenther Steiner at times, the relationship there remains positive and, besides, there is seemingly nobody in the market applying pressure to the German.
Kevin Magnussen in the other car has a deal until at least the end of 2023, having been signed on to a ‘multi-year’ contract when he rejoined the squad in place of Nikita Mazepin.
And so it leaves Williams, which has Alex Albon on the books for next year and seemingly the only seat with any serious question marks on it.
Nicholas Latifi has been under pressure for some time, with suggestions earlier in the season Piastri could replace him mid-year.
The team has thrown its support behind him for now, though the Canadian’s contract is up at the end of the year, and there is no shortage of promising youngsters available with links to the team or its technical partner, Mercedes.
Chief among them, though hardly a youngster, is Nyck de Vries, who was linked with the seat now filled by Albon a year ago.
The Dutchman is a Mercedes contracted driver and won last year’s Formula E world championship, a competition he’s continued to compete in this year.
He’s also had a Free Practice 1 outing with Williams in Spain, and was in action for Mercedes at Paul Ricard last month.
With Mercedes pulling out of Formula E at the end of the current campaign, the talented 27-year-old is seemingly without a job – though he has been linked with a move into the World Endurance Championship with Toyota.
The other possibility is Logan Sargeant, the American Formula 2 racer who has enjoyed something of a breakout season.
However, he is currently ineligible for a superlicence and will only qualify for one if he finishes this year’s F2 campaign in the top five.
While that’s a reasonable expectation, it is not guaranteed, so while he may be one the team is keeping an eye on, it feels premature to suggest he’s ready for Formula 1 just yet – give him another year.
The most likely outcome therefore seems to be de Vries slotting into the car alongside Albon, a move that would all but complete the 2023 driver line-up.
2023 F1 driver contracts