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Formula 1

Who will replace Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin? Two-time champion on the move

The four-time World Champion will retire at the end of this season, but his team has already found an amazing replacement in the drivers market.

Update:
The 4-time World Champion will retire at the end of this season, but his team has already found an amazing replacement in the drivers market.
Anadolu AgencyGetty

Fernando Alonso, the Spanish driver who won two World Championships with Renault in 2005 and 2006, will be the driver replacing Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin at the end of this season. Vettel and Alonso were great rivals during Alonso’s years at Ferrari while Vettel dominated with Red Bull in the 2010s. Vettel, 35, will retire after having won four championships with the energy drink-owned team, but he was already on the decline after leaving Ferrari for a middle of the pack team like Aston Martin. He will be replaced by a driver six years older than him, who is changing teams for the fifth time in Formula 1 but who has not shown any signs of slowing down. Alonso is on the move, again.

Why does Alonso go to Aston Martin now?

Fernando Alonso is signing a multi-year contract with Aston Martin that will see him wear their green colors from 2023 onwards. The Spanish driver is in the last season of his contract with Alpine, previously known as Renault, and contract renewal talks had stalled due to the difficult position that the team is in both car-wise and driver-wise.

Alonso is the best driver they have, but he is also a 41-year-old whose career may not last much longer; Esteban Ocon is an overall worse driver, but he is French, so the team has a connection with him that helps him stay on the team; Australian Oscar Piastri is 21 and just won the F2 title last season, so the team see a lot of potential in him. Piastri seemed the odd man out until this announcement, as his future shifts from replacing Latifi at Williams, with one of the worst cars available, to replacing Alonso in a better team with a not so great teammate alongside him, which might allow him to become the number one driver in the team sooner rather than later.

Alonso has been displeased with Alpine’s management for a long time now, and it was all the more evident in yesterday’s race as Ocon’s performance cost the team some valuable points. Ocon spent more time defending his position against his teammate than against other drivers, which made them both drop on the grid and Alonso use the radio to say that he “had never seen a defense like Esteban Ocon’s”. The Spanish driver has shown terrific pace this season, getting to qualify second under the rain in Canada, but the team’s strategy and power unit issues have seen him lose a lot of points in this first half of the season. He was headed to the summer break with only 41 points and a hunger for more, but this announcement means that Alpine will prioritize Ocon even more going forward.

“I still have the hunger and ambition to fight to be at the front, and I want to be part of an organization that is committed to learn, develop and succeed,” Alonso said via his Instagram account right after Aston Martin made the signing official, which is a slight jab at Alpine at the same time he shows his excitement to stay in F1 with a new team and new objectives. The two-time champion is still one of the fastest in the grid, but no spots seemed to be open among the top three teams (Ferrari, where has already been, Red Bull and Mercedes), and it seems like he took Aston Martin’s offer as a way to ensure he can keep fighting in the best racing championship in the world for years to come. ‘Checo’ Pérez is underperforming but has already signed an extension with Red Bull and Hamilton does not seem to be retiring soon either, so Alonso’s options were limited.

Why does Aston Martin sign Alonso?

That is an easy question to answer as Alonso is both one of the fastest drivers as of now and he is one of the most reliable and savvy people in Formula 1. He will get a big check for each season of this new contract, but Aston Martin knows what it is paying for as it gets another world champion to drive next to Lance Stroll, the 23-year-old son of team owner Lawrence Stroll, who has already won a race and is improving every season. Alonso can help Aston Martin grow as a team at the same time as they grow as a brand, having gone from Force India a few years ago to now being named after the luxury sports car. They have also secured big investment from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (the ones behind LIV Golf and other projects), totalling up to $700 million which could improve the team in the future.

HUNGARORING, MOGYOROD, HUNGARY - 2022/07/30: Owner of Aston Martin F1 Team Lawrence Stroll   in the paddock during final practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary. (Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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HUNGARORING, MOGYOROD, HUNGARY - 2022/07/30: Owner of Aston Martin F1 Team Lawrence Stroll in the paddock during final practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary. (Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images)Marco CanonieroGetty

Lawrence Stroll has already explained the reasoning behind signing Alonso, which he sees as an obvious move: “It seemed natural, therefore, to invite Fernando to be part of the development of a winning team, and we very quickly established in our recent conversations that we have the same ambitions and values, and it was logical and easy to confirm our desire to work together.”

Stroll has seen his team have up and downs, but he hopes that Alonso’s presence can help it achieve more ambitious goals. “I have set out to bring together the best people and develop the right resources and organization to succeed in this highly competitive sport, and those plans are now taking shape at Silverstone.”

Team principal Mike Krack also said that bringing in Alonso is an opportunity for everyone on the team to improve. “We know that nearly everyone can learn from someone of Fernando’s caliber and experience. We are confident that he will inspire everyone to lift their game, and that will only enhance the already infectious energy that exists within the team”, he said, “We are on a journey to create a winning organization, and it is clear that Fernando will accelerate our progress and bring us to a performance in which we can take pride”.

What this signing means for Formula 1 in 2023

Vettel’s retirement and Alonso’s signing with Aston Martin makes it easy to see how F1 will shape out for next season, as the top teams will keep their driver lineups intact and only back-of-the-grid teams such as Williams, who will probably move on from Latifi, or Alpha Tauri, whose future hinges on Red Bull being bought by Porsche and what that means, still have some doubts about who their drivers will be in 2023.

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