BUDAPEST, Hungary — It’s no wonder Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll acted so quickly to secure Fernando Alonso’s services for 2023.
By signing Alonso, he has replaced one world champion, Sebastian Vettel, with another just four days after the latter announced his plan to retire at the end of this season. Alonso was by far the best candidate available to Stroll – only Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen would have represented a more meaningful statement of intent.
It’s easy to forget looking at the championship order this season, or last season, but Stroll has set Aston Martin’s mid-term goal of wins and championships. Off the track, he has invested heavily in state-of-the-art facilities at the team’s Silverstone base and has stolen a lot of money from other teams such as highly regarded Red Bull technical guru Dan Fallows. He didn’t do anything with half measures.
Stroll has now managed to entice two of the best drivers of modern times to join his team in the span of 24 months, giving a good indication of how seriously people should take Aston Martin’s long-term ambitions.
This deal makes sense for everyone involved
Vettel’s retirement set a perfect scenario for all three sides. For Alonso, it makes him the face of one of the most ambitious teams on the grid. His immediate future at Alpine seemed uncertain as long as Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri was waiting in the wings. While Alonso’s talent would always draw attention if another seat became available, it was also questionable whether he would return from a second F1 sabbatical.
Now he may have found a place to stay on the grid for the foreseeable future. Patience will be key, but Alpine is only a few places ahead of Aston Martin at the moment. Renault’s factory outfit has consistently fallen back for a place at the front of the grid since its return in 2016 and it’s hard to be optimistic it will bounce back any time soon.
Alonso returned to F1 in 2021 to one day win a world championship and Aston Martin has just as good a chance of creating that opportunity for him in the future as Alpine. From a marketing point of view, it also looks like a step forward for Alonso – while Renault’s F1 team has been rebranded as the lesser-known Alpine name, Alonso is now the star driver of one of the most iconic car brands in the world.
For Aston Martin, it’s an incredible deal that should prompt other teams in the paddock to pay attention. Stroll has to wonder how this option fell into his lap so perfectly. Although Vettel is a four-time world champion, most in the paddock would rate Alonso as the superior talent for Vettel, so it feels like an upgrade. Vettel is one of the greats of the modern era, but since his dominant four consecutive titles at Red Bull, he never seemed to be the same driver. Even at Aston, he was prone to mistakes, such as the one where he dropped out of practice last weekend for qualifying.
Alonso couldn’t be more different – he almost never makes a mistake. Considered by many in F1 to be the most versatile talent on the grid, Alonso’s ability to get the most out of his machines is remarkable and he will play a key role in the team’s plans to move up the ranks. Alonso is a ruthless and brilliant racer and on the track there are only benefits to this signing.
Lawrence’s son Lance Stroll, who will be Alonso’s teammate next season, may be the only person not happy with the deal. During the Hungarian Grand Prix there was a feeling that Lawrence would never attract a driver who in all likelihood will completely surpass his son, but this signing shows that he puts the business and the goals of the team first. Whatever the personal best looks like, the younger Stroll probably has the safest race seat in F1 right now and it’s hard to ever see him leave unless it’s of his own accord so it’s not fair to see Alonso coming as a threat to his F1 career.
It also solves a major headache for Alpine and Piastri. The French team faced a potentially messy situation as it tried to have its pie and eat it the following season, detaining Alonso for another year while trying to find another team to take down the hugely talented F2 champion . It was a weird and potentially dangerous tightrope, as Alpine risked wasting all the investment it has put into Piastri’s career thus far if it couldn’t find him a race seat.
Alonso’s departure has created a clear and easy path for the Australian to be Esteban Ocon’s teammate next season. McLaren boss Zak Brown is a known admirer of Piastri’s talent and he would have gotten a lot of attention from other teams, but Alpine can now tie their man to a very important F1 deal for the foreseeable future.
What now for Schumacher and Gasly?
Vettel wanted Mick Schumacher, son of boy hero and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, to replace him, but that option always seemed unappealing to Mercedes customer Aston Martin. Schumacher has been disappointing in his year and a half in F1 and would not have justified the complications associated with a team buying Mercedes engines to take a driver out of Ferrari’s stable.
Schumacher’s future on the grid now looks as unclear as ever. Haas is still not convinced he is a long-term prospect, given his inconsistent form and the expensive crashes from earlier this year, and team owner Gene Haas and F1 boss Guenther Steiner are expected to take the time to explore all options available to the team. to judge. year.
Before Alonso’s move opened up the Alpine option, Piastri and his manager Mark Webber were looking for the seat likely to be released by Nicholas Latifi at Williams next season. It’s also hard to see Schumacher land there, with Mercedes-backed Formula E driver Nyck de Vries now an obvious candidate for the team just weeks after fielding the team’s F1 car. prior to the Spanish Grand Prix.
Triple-heading races after the upcoming break in August, in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, could be crucial for Schumacher in convincing Haas he deserves a second F1 contract, but it may already be too late for him to do so. prove.
Alonso to Aston is also bad news for people looking to see Pierre Gasly escape the purgatory he finds himself in at AlphaTauri now that a promotion back to Red Bull seems unlikely. If Aston Martin could have struck a deal with Red Bull, Gasly would have cut those ties – Carlos Sainz has done well since doing the same a few years ago and now drives one of the best cars on the grid.
It would have been an expensive move for Stroll for a much less accomplished talent than Alonso, so it’s no wonder he didn’t go into a bidding war with Red Bull over the French driver’s services. As short as it was as an opportunity, it feels like a big one to have passed by Gasly.