BUDAPEST, Hungary — It’s no wonder Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll moved so quickly to secure Fernando Alonso’s services for 2023.
By signing Alonso, he replaced one world champion, Sebastian Vettel, with another, just four days after the latter announced his intention to retire from Formula 1 at the end of this season. Alonso was by far the best candidate available for Stroll – only Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen would have represented a more meaningful statement of intent.
It’s easy to forget to look at the order of championships this season, or last, but Stroll has set wins and championships as the medium-term goal for Aston Martin. Off the circuit, he has invested heavily in state-of-the-art facilities at the team’s Silverstone base and poached big-budget talent from other teams, such as Red Bull’s much-loved technical guru Dan Fallows. He didn’t do anything halfway.
Stroll has now managed to entice two of the best drivers of the modern era to join his team in the space of 24 months, giving a good indication of how seriously people should take Aston Martin’s long-term ambitions. .
This agreement makes sense for all parties involved
Vettel’s retirement created a perfect scenario for all three parties. For Alonso, that makes him the face of one of the most ambitious teams on the grid. His immediate future with Alpine looked uncertain as Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri awaited him in the wings. While Alonso’s talent would always command attention if another seat were available, it was also fair to wonder if he would return from a second F1 sabbatical.
Now he may have found himself a place to stay on the grid for the foreseeable future. Patience will be key, but Alpine is only a few places ahead of the competition over Aston Martin at the moment. The factory Renault team has been consistently short of a place at the front of the grid since its return in 2016 and it’s hard to be optimistic that it will get back there anytime soon.
Alonso has returned to F1 in 2021 to win a world championship one day and Aston Martin has as much chance of creating that opportunity for him as Alpine down the line. From a marketing point of view, it also seems like a step up for Alonso – while Renault’s F1 team has been rebranded to the lesser-known name Alpine, Alonso is now the star driver of one of the most iconic car brands in the world.
For Aston Martin, this is an incredible deal and one that should make other teams in the paddock sit up and take notice. Stroll must be wondering how this option came to him so perfectly. Although Vettel is a four-time world champion, most in the paddock would consider Alonso the superior talent to 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 has never seemed like the same driver. Even at Aston he was prone to mistakes, like the one that saw him crash out of practice before qualifying last weekend.
Alonso couldn’t be more different – he almost never makes mistakes. Considered by many in F1 to be the most complete 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 relentless and brilliant runner and on the track there are only advantages to this signing.
Lawrence’s son Lance Stroll, who will be Alonso’s teammate next season, might be the only person not happy with the deal. During the Hungarian Grand Prix, there was a feeling that Lawrence would never sign a driver who in all likelihood would completely surpass his son, but this signing shows that he puts business and team goals first. Regardless of how the head-to-head record looks, young Stroll has arguably the safest racing seat in F1 at the moment and it’s hard to see him go unless it’s of his own volition. so it’s not fair to see Alonso’s arrival as a threat to his F1 career.
It also solves a major headache for Alpine and Piastri. The French team have faced a potentially messy situation trying to have their cake and eat it next season, keeping Alonso for another year while trying to find another team to take on the hugely talented F2 champion. . It was a strange and potentially dangerous tightrope to walk as it risked Alpine wasting all the investment it has made in Piastri’s career so far if they couldn’t find him a racing seat.
Alonso’s departure has created a clear and easy path for the Australian to be Esteban Ocon’s team-mate next season. McLaren boss Zak Brown is a known admirer of Piastri’s talent and he would have attracted a lot of attention from other teams, but Alpine can now tie their man down to a very big F1 contract for the foreseeable future.
And now for Schumacher and Gasly?
Vettel wanted Mick Schumacher, son of childhood hero and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, to replace him, but that option has always seemed unattractive to Mercedes client Aston Martin. Schumacher has been disappointing in his year and a half in F1 and would not have justified the complications of a team buying Mercedes engines trying to sign a driver from the Ferrari team.
Schumacher’s future on the grid now looks hazier than ever. Haas remains unconvinced he is a long-term prospect, given his inconsistent form and costly crashes earlier in the year, and team owner Gene Haas and F1 boss Guenther Steiner should take their time to assess all the options available to the team. year.
Before Alonso’s move opened up the Alpine option, Piastri and his manager Mark Webber had been scouting for the seat likely to be vacated at Williams by Nicholas Latifi next season. It’s also hard to see Schumacher landing there, with Mercedes-backed Formula E driver Nyck de Vries now an obvious candidate for the team just weeks after leading the team’s F1 in practice. before the Spanish Grand Prix.
The triple header in races after the upcoming August break, in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, could be crucial for Schumacher to convince Haas he deserves a second F1 contract, but it may be already too late for him to do so.
Alonso to Aston is also bad news for people who want to see Pierre Gasly escape the purgatory he finds himself in at AlphaTauri now that a promotion to Red Bull seems unlikely. Had Aston Martin been able to strike a deal with Red Bull, Gasly would have freed himself of those ties – Carlos Sainz has thrived since doing the same a few years ago and now drives one of the best cars on the grid .
It would have been a costly move for Stroll for a far less accomplished talent than Alonso, so it’s no wonder he didn’t get into a bidding war with Red Bull over the French driver’s services. However briefly it existed as an opportunity, it seems like a great opportunity to have passed Gasly by.