The driver market has become clearer after the decision in the Piastri case. Now there are only spaces left at Alpine, Williams and Haas. But there are ten candidates ready for it. And one of them is Mick Schumacher.
McLaren is closed. Oscar Piastri has been a McLaren driver since the verdict of the FIA's contract tribunal. This leaves only three cockpits free. Alpine, Williams and Haas have only signed one of their drivers for 2024 so far. But there are ten candidates for the vacancies. And a possible swap. If that takes place, Alpine would be occupied and Alpha Tauri would also be assigned.
Of the ten drivers who still have hope, four are currently under contract as regular drivers. In addition to Pierre Gasly, Mick Schumacher, Daniel Ricciardo and Nicholas Latifi, Nico Hulkenberg, Antonio Giovinazzi, Logan Sargeant, Felipe Drugovich, Colton Herta and Nyck de Vries are also in the big draw. With different opportunities and talents.
For Latifi, the dowry is what counts, for Herta it's nationality, for Ricciardo and Hülkenberg experience, for de Vries the recommendation from employer Mercedes, for Drugovich the upcoming Formula 2 title and help from sponsors, for Schumacher next to the famous name a number of good performances this year.
The only pilot who can sleep soundly is Pierre Gasly. He has already been confirmed for Alpha Tauri but could switch to Alpine under certain conditions. Alpine must want him for this, and Alpha Tauri must obtain a super license for the desired replacement Colton Herta.
Super license for Herta without oval courses?
The 22-year-old American currently has 32 out of a possible 40 points as the minimum criterion for the super license. Although he has seven IndyCar victories and a third overall in the US series in 2020 in his vita. In the case of Herta, Formula 1 and the FIA want to take a hard line in order to support the preferred ladder to the premier class via Formula 2 and Formula 3.
There shouldn't be any exceptions, even if a US pilot would be good for the championship. Herta is currently eighth in the IndyCar series with the risk of slipping to 10th place. With normal counting he could shovel a maximum of three more points. Alpha Tauri would then have to get him fit for the super license with a series of Friday training sessions.
Red Bull Sports Director Helmut Marko criticizes the criteria for awarding tickets to Formula 1: "Really fast racing cars drive in the IndyCars and in the Japanese Super Formula, and there is strong internal competition. They are clear compared to our junior series undervalued."
Red Bull juniors too weak
Red Bull have their reasons why they don't use their own squad to replace Gasly. Liam Lawson, Jehan Daruvala and Jüri Vips have disappointed in the current Formula 2 season.The championship title was mandatory for promotion to the premier class.
Ayumu Iwasa surprised Marko with good performances, but the Japanese is still green behind the ears. "He needs a second Formula 2 season." The same goes for Isack Hadjar, Red Bull's Formula 3 hope. "A guy like Prost," Marko ennobles the 17-year-old Frenchman. The teenager will move up to Formula 2 in 2023.
The vacancy in Red Bull's talent pool gives Marko the opportunity to play the US card. Why not give Herta a chance, who comes closest to Red Bull's ideal with his wild actions on the track? "And Formula 1 is also happy about an American," Marko explains the unusual step.
Haas takes his time
Haas wants to take his time with his cockpit assignment. "Nobody's running away from me," says team boss Guenther Steiner calmly. He has Mick Schumacher on his radar at close range. "If he always performs like he did in Zandvoort, then he's a candidate."
Antonio Giovinazzi is a legacy from Ferrari. One should not read too much into the meaning of the two Friday practice sessions the US team will give him at Monza and Austin. Ferrari wants to refresh the Italian's driving impressions for the simulator work.
Haas can choose between experience and risk. An eight-time GP winner like Ricciardo is tempting on paper, but the Australian's recent performances are maneuvering himself out of the contenders. If it doesn't work again with another team, the boss should ask himself why he didn't recognize the signs of the times.
It's different with Nico Hulkenberg. The German, who has not had a regular place in the premier class since leaving Renault in 2019, was always at the same level as his teammates right away in his five temporary assignments for Corona victims. He is therefore considered the favorite for the seat.
Mercedes sponsors de Vries
Williams has a safe bank in Alexander Albon. Nicholas Latifi, on the other hand, can't handle the ground effect cars. Team manager Jost Capito points to two decent performances by the Canadian in Silverstone and Budapest, but despite the best time in the rain in the third practice session for the Hungarian GP, you have to be very benevolent to rate that as a good performance. If Latifi should also drive at Williams in 2023, it will only be because of the money.
Capito says he wants to keep watching his problem child. Although he is covered with the possible alternatives, reserve driver Logan Sargeant and Mercedes junior Nyck de Vries, who was one of the options a year ago, are also on his list.
De Vries is currently being strongly sponsored by Mercedes towards the Formula 1 cockpit. The champion of Formula 2 (2019) and Formula E (2021) is allowed to drive his third Friday practice session in Monza.After Williams and Mercedes, Aston Martin is now using the services of the Dutchman.
Schumacher on the bench?
De Vries was also spotted in Zandvoort in the Alpine motorhome talking to engineers. In addition, negotiators from both teams confer suspiciously often. The prospective Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich also makes initial contacts with Alpine. The 22-year-old Brazilian has the backing of Renault and a bank. Brazil is one of the most important markets in the world for Renault.
Alpine will carefully consider signing the second driver. After the Oscar Piastri fiasco, one cannot afford a second embarrassment. The combination of Ocon and Gasly, French sources say, would be a powder keg. That's probably why Esteban Ocon advertises Mick Schumacher so aggressively. "I would recommend Mick if I was asked. He has the talent that would really shine in our car."
If Schumacher should fall through all the chairs, there would still be the obligation as a reserve driver. Of the current Formula 1 drivers, Albon, Magnussen and Ocon have managed to return to becoming regular drivers after losing a cockpit. According to his own statement, Daniel Ricciardo is not too proud to sit on the bench for a year.