MONTREAL (AP) — Pierre Gasly is “100% confirmed” to return to AlphaTauri next season, and teams believe Oscar Piastri is ready to move up to a Formula One seat.
But Williams expects its line-up to remain unchanged until the end of the year – great news, if true, for Nicholas Latifi – and McLaren boss Zak Brown has said his relationship with embattled driver Daniel Ricciardo has never been better.
All of that was revealed at the Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday, the ninth event on this year’s calendar and a solid six weeks before F1’s “silly season” of driver movement reaches its peak.
Speculation has swirled since last month when Brown publicly notified Ricciardo to resume his role with McLaren. Although the Australian has a contract that runs until 2023, Brown revealed that there are “mechanisms” for McLaren to end the deal early.
But when the series returned to Canada for the first time since 2019, Toronto native Latifi admitted his seat with Williams isn’t secure. There have been suggestions that Latifi could be replaced after Sunday’s race by Piastri, the reigning F2 champion. Piastri has a one-year deal with Alpine as a reserve and test driver, but the team has promised to help him find an F1 seat by 2023.
Alpine director Otmar Szafnauer said “yes” when asked if Piastri was up for promotion, but said he had no information beyond speculation circulating in the paddock that the Australian was set to replace Latifi. .
And Williams boss Jost Capito seemed to dismiss the idea that Latifi will be out of a job after Sunday’s race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Capito acknowledged that Piastri was “ready to enter Formula One” and that he was “certainly on the list” of any team looking for a driver.
But could Piastri be in a Williams seat as soon as the British Grand Prix? Capito said both Alex Albon and Latifi are under contract.
“We are focused on this year, we have a driver lineup for this year,” Capito said. “We have no other plans. They both have a contract for the season and that is our plan, to fulfill it”.
The situation is not at all murky for Gasly at AlphaTauri, as team principal Franz Tost was adamant that the Frenchman will return in 2023.
“This is 100% confirmed,” Tost said Saturday.
Gasly himself did not seem so confident just a week ago in Baku, as the 26-year-old emphasized that he wants to race for wins and not just points. That led to speculation that Gasly could try to break free from Red Bull, which has backed him for most of his career but does not have a free F1 seat and has just extended Sergio Perez’s contract.
Tost silenced the speculation.
“He will be our driver, from Scuderia AlphaTauri, in 2023,” said Tost.
But when asked how Gasly was convinced to stay, the team boss was curt: “He has a valid contract, there’s nothing more to say.”
THE FUTURE OF RICCIARDO
Ricciardo has been asked about his future in both F1 and McLaren almost every week since Brown publicly assessed the Australian’s time with the team as disappointing.
Ricciardo says his contract is clear through 2023, but Brown has indicated there are clauses that could create an early exit. When asked how their relationship has been in the month since Brown publicly criticized the popular host, Brown said “the relationship with Daniel has never been better” and that the two recently had dinner together in London.
Brown also said that McLaren bears some responsibility for Ricciardo’s problems. McLaren is not currently giving Ricciardo or Lando Norris cars to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari.
“We need to produce a faster racing car,” said Brown. “Last year at Monza, when we had a strong race car, we were able to see what Daniel and Lando could do with it. We have to focus on giving our drivers better race cars and I think Daniel is highly motivated and has our full support. We are having fun and we have a great relationship with him and we hope to have a good weekend.”
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