PILOTS MARKET: With the future of a French star assured, where does Pierre Gasly’s future lie?
Alpine became the last team to finalize their 2022 roster with the news that they had offered Esteban Ocon a long three-year contract, signing him to the France squad at least until the end of 2024. But what Does this have any repercussions on the rest of the driver’s market, in particular for Ocon’s highly regarded compatriot, Pierre Gasly?
There had been a train of thought for many in the F1 paddock that Gasly’s stellar form for AlphaTauri – including that brilliant victory last year at Monza – might be enough to make him love Alpine in the near future, a practice factory with a French team a potentially favorable next step.
But while Alpine had a list of alternative options for the seat alongside Alonso, their first choice was still Ocon (which is run by Mercedes). They had seen enough of him on the right track in terms of pure pace, and off track where he exuded newfound confidence, to convince them that he was their future.
READ MORE: Ocon says new Alpine accord is ‘a burden on shoulders’ – and explains impact on Mercedes ties
While that doesn’t rule out a future transfer to Alpine for Gasly – perhaps after Alonso, to form a French super team – it’s not an immediate option. And that leaves Gasly, despite his exploits for AlphaTauri this year, with very few avenues to explore …
Red Bull has decisions to make
Staying in place is certainly a strong option. AlphaTauri relies heavily on his feedback and direction, especially with rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda. Mechanics and engineers love it and are energized by its ability to get absolutely everything out of the car – and more.
But while this team is now referred to as a sister team rather than a junior, it still exists to donate blood to new drivers for the Red Bull factory team. And Gasly is past that point in his career now.
This is his fourth full season with the team and staying for another year could be a tough decision for Red Bull, especially if Yuri Vips, Liam Lawson or Jehan Daruvala impress enough in F2 to get promoted.
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But he delivers at a high level, helps Tsunoda’s development, and earns championship points that put the team in the fight for 5th place in the championship, which of course means a lot of money for Red’s coffers. Bull, reducing the need to rely on Dietrich Mateschitz’s portfolio. It is an attractive proposition.
With a return to the Red Bull factory squad for which he only raced 12 races in 2019 unlikely, with senior management seemingly unwilling to re-promote him, the energy drink company has a big decision. to take.
Do they keep a pilot in his prime in the pool in case they need him at Red Bull (and to help AlphaTauri’s success) or let him go if he’s not in their plans? long term and throws their weight behind the next generation of Red Bull-backed riders?
ANALYSIS: Why Alpine and Ocon have decided to partner for the long term
Speaking on Thursday, Gasly said he had yet to speak to Red Bull about his future.
“I think it is still quite early on my side,” he said. â€œThings are in the hands of Red Bull. Ultimately, it will be up to them to decide whether we continue together, continue with AlphaTauri, with Red Bull, or other options. This is something we haven’t really talked about yet. I guess we’ll see in the weeks and months to come what we want to do and yes that’s about it.
Williams could be an option
Where else could Gasly go? There are technically two seats available at Mercedes, but the reality is Lewis Hamilton will almost certainly extend his time at the Silver Arrows for at least another season while Valtteri Bottas and George Russell appear set to fight for the second seat.
That only leaves openings at Alfa Romeo and Williams (assuming of course Aston Martin will keep owner Lawrence Stroll’s son Lance alongside Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull won’t bring him back) – and among those, the latter could be a crack opportunity.
Sure, they’re at the back of the grid right now – as they’ve been since 2018 – but it’s a squad that is thriving and well-endowed to support an offer back on the pitch.
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Williams will likely be bracing for a Russell exit as the Briton has previously said he wants to know his future ahead of the summer break and would very much like to move to Mercedes.
And so getting a signature of Gasly’s caliber would be quite a decision for Williams at this stage of the rebuild. The Frenchman has proven his speed and his ability to motivate a team around him. He’s incredibly personable, which makes him good for the brand – an area Williams focuses on – and would serve as the team’s statement of intent that they are able to recruit talented drivers.
That would mean Gasly would have to take some of the growing pains that come with revitalizing a new project. But he is still only 25 years old and could have a long career ahead of him. It would be an opportunity to work on an exciting project from scratch and potentially build the team around it.
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There is no doubt that it would be a gamble. But if AlphaTauri isn’t an option Red Bull doesn’t seem interested in bringing him back to the top table and refueling elsewhere, it could be a move that will keep him at worst in F1 and in the state of mind. people and could at best make it a career.
What does the rest of the driver market look like?
Mercedes have said they want to sort out their driver lineup much earlier this time around, only announcing Hamilton’s one-year deal a few weeks before pre-season testing.
Some time before summer vacation, so it would be best for everyone involved. For Mercedes, this is the dilemma they’ve become familiar with – do they promote junior driver Russell or keep Bottas, who over the past four years has proven to be a solid driver who can be counted on. to help in the constructors’ championship? at the very least, but does it seem recently to have lost the boil?
READ MORE: ‘We need a car that both drivers can push to its limits,’ Wolff says ahead of French GP
Red Bull must also decide whether Sergio Perez deserves another year. His steady progress, which last time in Baku saw the team secure their first victory and help them extend their lead in the Constructors’ Championship despite the retirement of Max Verstappen, suggest he is doing more. that is enough to warrant a new agreement.
And that leaves only Williams and Alfa Romeo. As discussed, Gasly could be an option for Williams, who has a shortlist of drivers. But fixing this problem for now is not a priority, as CEO Jost Capito is focusing on restructuring the team first. He also knows the team is a tantalizing prospect, with several drivers reportedly showing interest in joining them in the future.
Nicholas Latifi has done a decent job so far in his second season, so he remains in the running to stay. And they would want to keep Russell, if that’s an option if Mercedes turns down the option to sign him.
If Russell were to join Mercedes in place of Bottas, that would also put the Finn in the mix to go the other way. He started his career with the British squad and will almost certainly be on Williams’ shortlist if he becomes available.
Alfa Romeo has been impressed with Antonio Giovinazzi, and thanks to his Ferrari support – he’s part of their junior program – it’s a real option they’ll be staying on for a fourth season.
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Kimi Raikkonen may be heading into his mid-forties, but he’s showing no signs of throwing in the towel, and if his comments stay at a high level and he can get results, Alfa Romeo could struggle to find a reason to change its composition. . Callum Ilott impressed in his reserve role and could stand a chance if Ferrari pushed him on Giovinazzi.
As we head towards the first triple header of the season, a lot remains to be decided …