Formula One isn’t unique to having a drivers’ market puzzle to solve – in fact the term ‘silly season’ is an annual staple of the sport as drivers and teams weigh up their future options.
But by any measure, trying to predict who will be driving where next term has been thrown into utter chaos following significant moves made before and after Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel started the scramble after the four-time world champion confirmed he would retire from the sport at the end of the season, before Fernando Alonso dropped a bombshell on Monday by announcing he was leaving the Alpine team to replace his old title rival at Aston Martin.
Fernando Alonso (centre) and Oscar Piastri (right) have snubbed drives at Alpine next season
Alonso will replace Sebastian Vettel (right) who will leave Aston Martin to retire from F1
Alpine’s response was to announce reserve driver and highly rated youngster Oscar Piastri on Tuesday to fill the gap vacated by the Spaniard, only for the 21-year-old to dramatically insist he had not agreed to race for the team next term.
The Australian’s comments suggest he has likely bagged a seat elsewhere on the grid, but either way it will likely have a domino effect on the rest of the grid for 2023.
With the drivers’ market now in total chaos, Sportsmail looks at the likely moves that could shape the grid from next season.
Confirmed drivers: Lewis Hamilton and George Russell
If there is one team who haven’t dabbled in ‘silly season’ much over the last decade it is Mercedes.
Obviously the Silver Arrows have had no need to replace a seven-time world champion in Hamilton who likewise has enjoyed spending his best years with the outstanding team over the last decade.
When a seat did become open last term, a fairly logical choice in replacing Valtteri Bottas with main reserve driver Russell was made and given the Brit’s outstanding start to his Mercedes career, there is no need for the team or their British pairing to look elsewhere – and both are tied down for 2023.
Mercedes are happy with a British pairing of Lewis Hamilton (left) and George Russell (right)
Confirmed drivers: Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez
Another team who have zero interest in the drivers’ market right now. Red Bull could arguably not have a better driving pairing on balance of team and driver interests.
They have world champion and this year’s standings leader Max Verstappen and in Sergio Perez they have a No 2 driver who, while not as quick as the Dutchman, has been a skilled rear gunner of picking up big points when weekends don’t quite fall in his team-mate’s favour.
Verstappen signed a new long term deal at the start of the season while Perez is also locked in for another two years following a new agreement back in May.
Max Verstappen (right) and Sergio Perez (left) have formed an excellent partnership at Red Bull
Confirmed drivers: Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
Ferrari’s PR machine has had to be at its very best in these last few weeks as a series of catastrophic mistakes at grands prix weekends have seen the team’s title hopes quickly evaporate.
But at least away from the grid they have some of their ducks in-a-row.
Exciting future world championship prospect Charles Leclerc is tied down until 2026, while Sainz also agreed a two-year deal at the start of the season.
Whether they can now help both try and realise dreams of winning the world championship remains to be seen but the drivers’ market is one F1 problem Ferrari don’t have.
Ferrari have locked in the highly talented duo of Carlos Sainz (left) and Charles Leclerc (right)
Confirmed drivers: Lando Norris
Potential drivers: Daniel Ricciardo, Oscar Piastri
Now it gets interesting. Lando Norris is McLaren’s golden boy and the team will be desperate for the Brit to be the figurehead for the team as they look to return to the top, and he believes they can having signed a new deal earlier this year until 2025.
His team-mate Daniel Ricciardo also has a deal for next season but after two difficult seasons the Australian might still be moved on for 2023 whether by his choice or that of the team. Either way it leaves his seat potentially open.
A new favourite to potentially replace the popular Australian is his compatriot Piastri, following the F2 champion’s shock snub to Alpine suggesting he has a better option elsewhere.
Realistically it’s hard to see that better option to the French-Anglo team being anywhere else but the Woking outfit.
Piastri is now thought to be nearing a McLaren move after snubbing Alpine for 2023
Confirmed drivers: Esteban Ocon
Potential drivers: Pierre Gasly, Piastri, Ricciardo
Right, here we are in the eye of the storm. First the simple equation – the team will be led by current driver Esteban Ocon next term.
He was expected to carry on into a third season with Alonso before the Spaniard’s shock departure, having been unhappy over not being given a multi-year deal to stay at the team and having lost faith in the team’s ability to progress.
As Alpine’s reserve driver, Piastri was expected to replace him – albeit a year ahead of schedule – until his incredible snub after the team had confirmed the Australian.
Alpine may now believe Piastri should be racing for them next term but should that not be the case it could open the door for Ricciardo to return to the team, who he only left at the end of 2020 when the outfit were formerly known as Renault.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly has also been tipped for a seat to form an all-French driver line-up but that could come at a cost of a driver pairing who reportedly have a bit of bad blood between them carried over from their pre-F1 years.
Piastri could be replacing Daniel Ricciardo who may be heading back to his former team
Confirmed drivers: None
Potential drivers: Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher
Another team in a right mess concerning its drivers next year. Team boss Franz Tost is ‘100 per cent’ sure that Gasly will be driving for them next term, but that hasn’t stopped the Frenchman being linked with moves away from the team – especially now there appears to be a free seat at Alpine.
Yuki Tsunoda has been quite error prone in his two years at the team and not really lived up to his exciting billing from his F2 years. The 22-year-old though may be given another year to impress, and that is even more likely if Gasly does depart.
A third contender for the seat could be Mick Schumacher who, following a very poor start to the year, is now starting to find his feet with the Haas team.
There is still plenty of interest in the son of the great Michael Schumacher, whose seat at Haas for next year is far from certain amid links with Ricciardo moving to the team.
The only likely thing to back at Red Bull’s sister team is that at least one of Gasly or Tsunoda will be kept on next term.
AlphaTauri believe they have Pierre Gasly (pictured) confirmed for next season at the team
Confirmed drivers: Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll
It’s been a tough year for Aston Martin as they have had to scrap hard for minor points, and were rocked ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix following the retirement news of Vettel.
But Alonso has come in on a two-year deal and he will be team-mate to Lance Stroll who has done a solid job for the team and is of course the son of billionaire owner Lawrence, which means the team won’t be actively looking to dispense of his services.
There are many concerns for the team going forward, but thankfully who will actually drive for them over possibly the next couple of years is not one of them.
Alonso made a shock announcement on Monday after revealing he would join Aston Martin
Confirmed drivers: Alex Albon
Potential drivers: Piastri, Nyck de Vries, Nicholas Latifi, Logan Sargeant
Williams is no longer the dream ticket it was throughout the 1990s and early 2000s but it is a seat on the F1 grid and there are no shortage of names to fill the gap alongside Alex Albon next term, who was confirmed to the team on a multi-year contract on Wednesday.
The former Red Bull driver has done a solid job on his return to the team, outperforming Nicholas Latifi who, while remaining an option for 2023, is fighting to stay in the sport having endured a poor campaign.
The original plan many thought would happen was for Piastri to spend a year ‘on loan’ at the team before replacing Alonso, but that is now unlikely to happen.
Williams are powered by Mercedes, who will be keen to give cockpit experience to Nick de Vries with the Formula E champion having made a brief appearance in practice for the team at the Spanish Grand Prix earlier in the season.
American Logan Sargeant is also on the team’s radar with team boss Jost Capito ‘absolutely convinced’ the Williams youngster will drive in F1 at some point as he continues to impress with Carlin in F2 this season.
Mercedes will be eager to see youngster Nyck de Vries given a seat by Williams for 2023
Confirmed drivers: Valtteri Bottas
Potential drivers: Zhou Guanyu, Schumacher
It’s a curious situation at Alfa Romeo who, while still active in the drivers’ market, are quietly steering towards maintaining their driver pairing for next season.
Valtteri Bottas’ strong first season with the team means he will be going nowhere for 2023 having found his best form again since moving out of the shadows of Hamilton at Mercedes.
Chinese star Zhou Guanyu hasn’t quite been able to match his experienced team-mate’s speed and not including the British Grand Prix – where he had an enormous crash – has been prone to errors.
That being said, there is no real urgency to find a replacement and he is likely to be given another season to impress.
Schumacher is a rank outsider to replace him given his links to Ferrari, who power the Alfa Romeo team.
Zhou Guanyu has had a mixed first season in Formula One with the Alfa Romeo team
Confirmed drivers: Kevin Magnussen
Potential drivers: Schumacher, Ricciardo
A much stronger year compared to the pointless 2021 season has made Haas a much more attractive team to drive for ahead of next year, and right now they only have Kevin Magnussen tied down.
The team are weighing up their potential options for the new season, and that includes retaining Schumacher who, after a very shaky start to the season, is now improving having bagged his first world championship points at the British Grand Prix.
Yet, Schumacher could still be moved on to AlphaTauri and that frees up a space for Ricciardo to slot into to keep the Australian on the grid.
Mick Schumacher is expected to stay in F1, but his future team is uncertain at this stage