Perez deal has started F1 driver contract domino effect for 2023


Sergio Perez's new Red Bull deal has left Pierre Gasly with a big decision to make – but many other drivers on the F1 grid are affected too

Sergio Perez Red Bull F1 team

Perez is sitting pretty with his new two-year Red Bull contract – but what effect will it have on the rest of the grid?

Red Bull

Red Bull caught me out.

Last week, when it announced it was keeping Sergio Perez – and for two further years – I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. Instead of hanging the threat of being dropped at the end of the year over him in order to ensure compliance with tough calls, Red Bull committed to Perez and went after the stability it hasn’t had for a number of years.

In fact, that last time it had a settled driver pairing was 2017, a year before Daniel Ricciardo left. At that point, both Ricciardo and Verstappen were looking set for the following season together already and were a strong pairing, even if the Australian was starting to consider his position longer-term.

Given the uncertainty that has surrounded the seat since then, I just didn’t expect such an early call, or one that would provide such certainty. It definitely makes sense, don’t get me wrong, but I thought the team would be trying to keep Perez on his toes and fighting for his future in much the way Mercedes used to do with Valtteri Bottas.

While Red Bull was rightly criticised for the way handled the team orders situation in Barcelona, it’s only right to praise the team for rewarding a driver who has stepped up a level so far this year and continues to be an excellent team player.

Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri F1 driver

Gasly has been most heavily-affected by Red Bull decision – will he stay or will he go?

Red Bull

But what does it mean for the rest of the grid? The knock-on impact of knowing what Perez is doing could actually be quite significant.

The most heavily-affected driver is of course Pierre Gasly, who now knows for certain he won’t be returning to Red Bull at any stage and – if I understand comments surrounding his contractual status correctly – will be able to sign for another team at the end of this season.

I still think Gasly’s performances for AlphaTauri make him the perfect reserve for Red Bull to have on call if required, even if Yuki Tsunoda has developed better consistency this year and is more likely to stay than not.

While there are few Red Bull juniors banging down the door to come into F1 (plenty are close, but none are performing anywhere near consistently enough) there could be a desire to keep Gasly for another year. But whether the Frenchman would be willing to do that is another matter.

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If not, then the most competitive seat that could be available is at McLaren, if Daniel Ricciardo were to move on early. I don’t see that happening, but I do think the next three or four races will be crucial if that situation is to change. Ricciardo has a contract, but Zak Brown has already spoken of “mechanisms” that could see the pair go their separate ways if they really wanted. But neither side really wants that at all, they want Ricciardo to be a success.

If there’s no sign of progress by mid-July then maybe thoughts will have changed because the driver market could move quickly, but I expect the McLaren line-up to be the same one next year.

That then makes Alfa Romeo next on Gasly’s list, and he’d be a very good addition to that team. A Bottas-Gasly pairing would be strong and provide the type of consistency from two drivers that is currently stopping Alfa from leading the midfield.

But Zhou Guanyu has been unlucky at times this year and has largely impressed the team as a rookie, so if the results start to follow then he might get a second season despite his Alpine links, and that’s only if Theo Pourchaire isn’t forcing his way into the reckoning by winning the Formula 2 title.

22 Pourchaire

Pourchaire could yet be at Alfa Romeo next season – but Zhou has impressed


There’s also no space for Zhou back at Alpine – and similarly none for Gasly – because of Esteban Ocon’s existing contract and a straight choice between Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri for the other seat. Should Piastri get the nod, it could well be because Alonso has headed elsewhere, with whispers he could be bound for Aston Martin if Sebastian Vettel opts to retire.

It seems Vettel has been retired a hundred times already by people other than himself, and he’s now performing pretty well in a tricky car after missing the first two races due to Covid-19, so a third year at Aston feels more likely than not at this point. Plus he’s a longer-term option for Aston if you compare him to Alonso, given the fact he has six years on the Spaniard.

It just makes the likelihood of a competitive seat opening up for Gasly even smaller, even when we look down the standings as far as Haas.

By the end of the Monaco weekend it wasn’t just Ricciardo who was under scrutiny, with Mick Schumacher’s crash in the race putting him in Guenther Steiner’s crosshairs.

There had been sympathy for Schumacher in Spain after an impressive start saw him running as high as sixth but a lack of car pace and then questions over the strategy saw him slip away from the points rapidly.

There was much less sympathy when he ripped his car in two crashing at the Swimming Pool section when not on for a top ten result a week later, though. Added to his big shunt in Jeddah, Schumacher has cost the team a lot of money and yet to provide a return when it comes to results.

But there is payback in the sense of the Ferrari partnership, and Schumacher has traditionally come on stronger in his second season in a category. This year could be an anomaly given the radical change in cars and regulations, but a repeat of 2021 – when he showed flashes of performance as the season wore on – could be on the cards and would yield far better results than a year ago.

Plus with the Ferrari drivers tied in for the long term and Alfa Romeo not a realistic slot, if the Scuderia wants to keep him racing in F1 then Haas is the only real option.

So then we reach Williams, where Gasly ironically could end up part of a swap with Alex Albon once again, but this time because he wants out of the Red Bull set-up.

PIASTRI Oscar (aus), Reserve Driver of Alpine F1 Team, portrait during the Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Premio de Espana 2022, 6th round of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship, on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, from May 20 to 22, 2022 in Montmelo, Spain - Photo Xavi Bonilla / DPPI

The brilliant Oscar Piastri is on the sidelines in 2022 – but potential Alonso move could free up space at Alpine

Xavi Bonilla / DPPI

The smart money would be on a second year for Albon at Grove to continue developing and as the team’s benchmark – with Nicholas Latifi almost certainly in his last year – but if Red Bull didn’t want to fund that seat then he could return to AlphaTauri alongside Tsunoda, and Gasly would be an option to replace him.

What’s attractive about that for Williams is it now wants its own drivers rather than always running young talents owned by bigger teams, and Gasly has experience, pace and a race win to his name. It would also take the pressure off the second seat and allow that one to go to a youngster that Williams doesn’t fully control, such as Nyck de Vries or Piastri if there was no movement at Alpine.

So many of the potential moves are intertwined that one change could trigger multiple, but by the same token one decision to stick with the status quo could make similar likely elsewhere.

Either way, Red Bull’s early choice with Perez means it might not take long for the driver market to really kick into gear this season.