Oscar Piastri’s future has been one of the biggest issues in Formula One over the last few days, with the Alpine reserve driver linked with a switch to Williams. Lawrence Barretto, F1 Correspondent, evaluates the scenario. Alpine is in a precarious situation. They have three highly rated drivers, but just two race tickets available in 2023. Esteban Ocon has a long-term contract that will last until the end of 2024. Fernando Alonso’s contract ends at the end of the year, but both parties want to extend it because the double world champion has been so impressive and has had so much fun since returning to Formula One after a two-year absence. INTERVIEW: Oscar Piastri explains why his year away from Alpine is a statement of intent. And that means Alpine’s reserve driver Oscar Piastri, the reigning Formula 2 champion who is highly-rated by the French manufacturer and others in the F1 paddock, faces the prospect of a second year on the sidelines and losing the momentum that he’d built winning the Formula Renault Eurocup, F3 and then F2 title in succession. Alpine don’t want to risk that happening and therefore have been actively speaking to other teams on the grid in the hope they can find him a seat for next year, with the idea that when Alonso chooses to call it a day, they can recall Piastri, who by then will have F1 experience under his belt and be race sharp. Williams is one of the teams they’ve reached out to. Williams now have two open seats for 2023, but the fact is that Alex Albon will be with the squad next year, and most certainly in the medium to long term if he continues to perform as well as he has this year.
Piastri’s remarkable run is on the verge of collapsing.
The other seat, on the other hand, is up for grabs, as Nicholas Latifi’s three-year contract expires this year. The Canadian has fought mightily to master what is thought to be a notoriously difficult car to master. He’s also been hurt by the fact his team mate Albon has come in and overdelivered, scoring points twice with a car that really isn’t capable of doing so on pure performance. Latifi’s struggles, combined with Piastri’s availability, has led to speculation that the Australian will jump in mid-season, as early as the British Grand Prix, but I understand that is not the plan. For the time being, the focus is on getting Latifi up to speed and on track for this year. ‘It’s a mental game,’ says one participant. Williams is working to re-establish Latifi’s confidence following a rocky start in 2022, according to Capito. That is not to say that Williams are not already thinking about how their driver line-up evolves with an eye on next year – and it is true that Piastri is high up on the list. A Albon-Piastri line-up would be thrilling – and a powerful statement. They don’t have to take him, and they’re not in a hurry to make a decision. If they do sign him up, it would have to be on their terms – a multi-year deal or potentially a one-year contract with an option on Williams’ side to retain him. Williams will want to avoid being a stopgap and agreeing to a simple one-year deal, only to then lose him to Alpine the following year.
Albon has shone on his F1 return, while the going has been tougher for Latifi