The announcement of Sebastian Vettel’s retirement at the end of this year’s F1 Championship put into play the start of the 2022 Silly Season.
In true Seb style, the German chose to deliver the message using social media - a platform he has very much shunned in the past. His first ever Instagram post was clear, citing that family and other environmental interests were starting to take precedence over an increasingly busy F1 season, and there was not enough bandwidth for both.
A testing roll at BMW Sauber back in 2006 resulted in a solid F1 debut for the German at the 2007 US Grand Prix. Moving to Toro Rosso, Vettel’s maiden F1 win came at rain-soaked Monza, Italy, becoming the youngest ever Grand Prix winner. The Red Bull Era would see dominance from Vettel, not only keeping his rivals in check but, also, having the upper hand over his teammate Mark Webber, sometimes in a controversial fashion.
The 4X F1 Champion has not had it easy since his departure from Red Bull; the promise of success at Ferrari came to nothing, despite being in contention for the World Championship in 2017. Clearly, Vettel made some errors at the Scuderia; however, repeated team errors cost him potential points - something we are seeing again at Ferrari in 2022. It was clear that the move to Aston Martin would not result in an F1 Championship, but the roll for Vettel was to help develop the car and team. And he has done just that.
The void left by Vettel at Aston Martin was, within a few days, filled by Fernando Alonso in a shock departure from Alpine.
The 41-year-old Spaniard is under no illusion that Aston Martin is a championship winning team at the moment. It was, perhaps, Chairman Lawrence Stroll’s commitment to make Aston Martin a front running team in years to come that sealed the deal for Alonso. A multi-year contract also indicated confidence in Alonso’s ability to move the team up the grid, something which Alpine was reported not to have on the table. Okay, so far so good - Alpine would just fill Alonso’s spot with its highly rated academy star and reigning F2 Champion Oscar Piastri.
Unfortunately, Alpine was unable to offer Piastri a race seat for this season (2022), and it looked, initially, like a seat for 2023 with the French mark may not have been possible, with Ocon locked in for ‘23 and Alonso ready to resign. A deal to loan out the young Aussie to Williams was in the works, but, with Alonso’s departure, a seat at Alpine opened. Within hours of Alpine reportedly signing Piastri to an F1 seat for the 2023 season, the young Australian announced he had not signed any contract and that he would not be driving for the French mark next season.
So where is Piastri going?
McLaren seems to be the best bet, pushing out fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo. So, it remains to be seen if Ricciardo, who has a 2023 race contract with McLaren, will stay or go, and, if he leaves, how big will the buy-out be? If Ricciardo gives up his McLaren drive, options for an F1 seat elsewhere are limited, with Alpine and Williams being the most likely candidates.
As for Piastri, it seems he has contracts with both Alpine and McLaren, and resolution may have to come by way of the courts. Despite all the contract chaos, Alpine may still want to hold onto Piastri as it has spent millions of euros developing his talent in the junior ranks, as well as an extensive F1 test program this year in last season’s F1 car.
So, is this the end of the Silly Season for 2022? Probably not. Latifi, Schumacher and Zhou may have a roll to play in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, we wish Sebastian Vettel a very happy retirement and thank him for his tremendous contribution to motorsports.
Now take what you’ve learned and play today’s F1 Silly Season Quiz of the Day:
1. Download Quizefy app.
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4. Have fun and Strut Your Smart!