(Motorsport-Total.com) – The effects of “Piastrigate” on driver pairings in Formula 1 2023 could still have far-reaching consequences. Because at the Belgian Grand Prix, a surprise variant is being discussed behind the scenes, which hardly anyone had on the screen in this “silly season”.
Pierre Gasly can switch to Alpine if Helmut Marko lets him switch
According to exclusive information from ‘Motorsport.com’, Pierre Gasly should be at the top of the Alpine team’s list of candidates for 2023. His former employer AlphaTauri only confirmed in June that Gasly will stay at least until the end of 2023 as part of his Red Bull contract that runs until the end of 2023. But the last word may not have been said yet.
First of all, the Contract Recognition Board (CRB) in Geneva will decide next week whether Oscar Piastri should remain at Alpine or be allowed to switch to McLaren. But industry insiders reckon Alpine has missed a loophole and Piastri will drive alongside Lando Norris for McLaren in 2023. Then Alpine needs another driver.
Gasly would make sense. Daniel Ricciardo is also one of the favourites, but made himself unpopular with Renault CEO Luca de Meo and Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi in early 2020 when he signed a contract with McLaren for 2021 before the start of the Corona season on that time.
Marko: The doctor is the lynchpin
Gasly, on the other hand, is considered to be as talented as he is experienced and could form a French national team alongside Esteban Ocon. But even if Alpine and Gasly were to be interested in such a solution: In the end it is only possible if Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko lets him go.
In an interview with ‘Motorsport-Total.com’ Marko recently signaled that this would be theoretically possible. Asked if he would let Gasly go if an attractive opportunity arose for him elsewhere, he replied at the Hungarian Grand Prix: “Yes. We have a good relationship.”
When asked if Alpine contacted him, Gasly replied: “I have nothing to say about that at the moment. I’m concentrating on doing the best job I can this weekend.” When asked, he clarified: “I have a contract. As far as I know, I’ll be racing for AlphaTauri next year.”
Saturday: Meeting between Marko and Brown
But: Marko met McLaren CEO Zak Brown for a confidential conversation at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon. What was discussed is unclear. According to information from ‘Motorsport-Total.com’, Brown is said to be the one trying to pull the strings behind the scenes when he ditches the driver.
The theory goes like this: Brown has an interest in Alpine getting Gasly, because Alpine can then give up Piastri without a fight. But Red Bull will only let Gasly go if it gets a proven replacement for AlphaTauri. It is not in sight among the current Red Bull juniors.
So Brown could put his network to work to bring IndyCar driver Colton Herta to AlphaTauri. Rights holder Liberty Media wants it in light of three US Grands Prix in the 2023 season, and Dietrich Mateschitz probably wouldn’t mind selling more Red Bull cans and more AlphaTauri clothing in the US.
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However, it remains to be seen whether Herta is sporty enough to replace Gasly on an equal footing. And he doesn’t have a super license either. From this point of view, Mick Schumacher could be a plan B. The German, rumor has it among journalists in the paddock, may appeal to Porsche. If he develops well at AlphaTauri in 2026, he could be in Red Bull Porsche in 2026.
Ocon recommended Schumacher to Laurent Rossi
But Marko is not considered a Schumacher fan, and Porsche has yet to have a say with the drivers. That is why Schumacher has also acted as a candidate at Alpine. There he has a strong advocate at Ocon: “I told my boss that Mick Schumacher would be my preferred choice. Mick is a good friend of mine. I want to work with him.”
It is not surprising that Ocon recommends Schumacher. His relationship with Gasly has been strained for years, although he officially puts it into perspective: “We respect each other. That’s the most important thing.” And when asked if he thinks two Frenchmen would work in the same team, he emphasizes: “Yes.”
The list of candidates for the second alpine cockpit is long. In addition to Gasly, Ricciardo and Schumacher, there is also Nico Hülkenberg, Mercedes Junior Nyck de Vries, Sauber Junior Theo Pourchaire and former Alpine Junior Guanyu Zhou. A total of 14 or 15 drivers are said to be eligible for the job.