It is time for F1 silly season: latest projections

Latest buzz around the F1 silly season

By: Mikey McGuire

Traditionally, Monaco is the start of the most glorious time of year in the F1 community: silly season. Silly season is the time of year when drivers contracts are renegotiated and drivers are put on the market for a new seat. The past few years have seen some monumental moves, In 2021 we had George Russel make the move to Mercedes, leaving Valterri Bottas to fill Kimi Räikkönen’s seat in Alfa Romeo. In 2020, we saw Carlos Sainz leave McLaren for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel move to Aston Martin and Danial Ricciardo to McLaren. While this year’s silly season probably won’t be too crazy, there are still some things to look out for.

The most notable move I expect to take place is Ricciardo leaving Mclaren. It’s no secret that the Australian driver has not been performing at the team as well as everyone expected of him. It is true that this season has seen some improvement from last year, but I do not see Mclaren putting up with it any longer. A lot of speculation places Ricciardo at teams lower down on the grid like Alpine and Aston Martin, but I see Ricciardo leaving the sport altogether. I think Ricciardo will either retire from racing or more likely, find a seat in IndyCar. 

Ricciardo is very open about his love for the United States, so I think a full-time, or even a part-time drive in the states is something he might be considering. It also helps to see that drivers like Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson have left lackluster careers in F1 and found great success in the series. I think Ricciardo’s style of racing would really suit the cars as well, the durability of the car will allow him to showcase his late-breaking prowess and ability to make unlikely overtakes. If Ricciardo makes the switch, American audiences will welcome him with open arms, and he will thrive.

In the scenario where Daniel Ricciardo leaves McLaren that leaves a very hot seat open and I think McLaren will take Oscar Piastri off Alpines hands for the 2023 season. Piastri has more than proven that he belongs in F1 and I think he would be a great fit for McLaren. Piastri is a young driver with loads of personality and will slot right in beside Lando Norris as a teammate. Piastri will be a great investment for McLaren as well, he has a long career ahead of him and while he waits for seats to open further up the grid, he will no doubt pull some really good results for the Woking outfit and maybe even take the team to the top of the grid himself.

If Piastri moves to McLaren, Alpine will lose their insurance plan as with Fernando Alonso retires again. I think Alpine can do some creative dealings and sign French F2 driver and current Sauber junior driver, Theo Pourchaire. While Pourchaire is currently on track to fill a seat at Alfa Romeo, I think he will gravitate to the team that may have an opportunity for him sooner. Both Alfa seats look locked in for at least the best few years and Pourchaire will be ready for F1 sooner than that. Alpine will also benefit from having another French driver on the books to accompany Frenchman Esteban Ocon.

The other players in this year’s silly season I think are Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, and Pierre Gasly. Vettel and Hamilton are drivers I think are likely to retire at the end of the season, Vettel more likely than Hamilton, but I would not be shocked to see Hamilton hang up the boots after this year. If Hamilton does retire I believe that Mercedes will take Gasly to fill the seat alongside Russel. That lineup will do Mercedes very well in my opinion and seeing how young both drivers are, Mercedes could lock them both down to long-term contracts and really start planning another run at dominance.

If Vettel chooses to retire, Aston has a few people they could look at to fill the seat. From the Mercedes camp, they could take Formula E champion Nyck De Vries. They could also look at Nico Hulkenburg as a placeholder while some junior drivers like Logan Sargent or Jamie Chadwick develop their skills further in the lower formulas. While none of these outcomes are ideal, Aston has the opportunity to play the long game with their driver choice and plan to get back to podium places in a few years. 

As the dominoes fall in my hypothetical silly season some questions are left unanswered. The big one is who will take Gaslys seat at Alpha Tauri? There aren’t any Red Bull junior drivers that are totally ready for the big dance in my opinion, but Red Bull has a history of throwing juniors into F1 prematurely just to fill a seat. If they go that route one more, we may see a name like Liam Lawson or Dennis Hauger get the call-up, but Red Bull is notoriously unpredictable in this respect.

As much as I would love all my predictions to come true, there are many factors that play into drivers signing with teams outside just on track ability. While nothing is set in stone until it is officially announced, I think some of these predictions are more likely than others and I hope we can see some shake-up on the grid in 2023. New faces at new teams are always a fun way to start any season.

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