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Why AlphaTauri confirmed a driver already “100% confirmed” for F1 2023

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Last week in Canada, team principal Franz Tost made it very clear that Gasly was going nowhere, saying he was “100% confirmed” in the team for 2023. Asked to explain how the talks had gone with Gasly in a 90-word summary question, Tost took only 10 to reply deadpan: “You have a valid contract. There’s nothing more to say.

The uproar that followed seemed surprising. It was not new information that Gasly had a contract for 2023. In March, he told Motorsport.com in an interview that “it was no longer confidential that I have one more year after this year on my contract”.

However, Tost’s comments last week and today’s announcement from AlphaTauri have been seen as major advances in the driver market narrative towards 2023.

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While Gasly was under contract for next year, it is important to note that the deals have always been with Red Bull, not specifically AlphaTauri. This has given Red Bull the freedom to place him in any of its teams it sees fit, hence the ease with which he returned to Toro Rosso in 2019 after his difficult 12-race spell with the first team.

Looking ahead to the new season, the future of Sergio Pérez was always going to be one of the great elements of the drivers’ market for this year. Red Bull had usually waited until later in the season to make a decision on the matter, and the Mexican’s first year alongside Max Verstappen had barely set the world on fire. If he had slumped in 2022, then Gasly would surely have been knocking on the door to get in and secure the return to Red Bull that he longed for.

But Perez has been in brilliant form so far this year, resulting in a very quick conclusion to contract talks. In the days after his victory in Monaco, Pérez was confirmed at Red Bull not only for 2023 but, surprisingly, for 2024 as well.

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT03, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Patrick Vinet/Motorsport Images

The news was seen as a blow to Gasly, who would have seen 2024 as a natural turning point to tell Red Bull ‘use me or lose me’ – a scenario that Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko probably even accepted in March.

In Baku, Gasly said it was “logical” for Red Bull to retain Perez, who “checks all the boxes” for what the team is looking for in a teammate to Max Verstappen. He added that “beyond 2023, I consider all options.” By then, he will have the kind of reputation and freedom in the pilot market that is sure to make him a very popular property.

However, that’s exactly why it was important for AlphaTauri to make it clear that Gasly isn’t going anywhere for the upcoming season, as the silly season gears up to speed up.

Gasly has been one of the most consistent players in F1 in recent years. He is a race winner, podium finisher and regular points scorer for a small team he leads. For any team looking for an experienced driver to join their lineup, he fits all the criteria they could want. His only chance at a top team may have fallen short, but the same thing happened with Pérez at McLaren in 2013; he took the long way back after years of hard work and underdog displays in midfield, not unlike Gasly.

One of the most obvious teams Gasly could have been linked with is McLaren amid uncertainty over Daniel Ricciardo’s future. Like Gasly, Ricciardo’s contract runs until the end of 2023, but recent comments from McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown, including confirmation that there were “mechanisms” in his contract that allowed for an early exit, raised questions of whether that the Australian would still be in Woking. next year.

Brown said in Canada that his relationship with Ricciardo had “never been better” and stressed that McLaren’s focus had to be on giving its drivers a better car, something Lando Norris was quite outspoken about after Sunday’s difficult race. “Things could be better,” Brown said of Ricciardo’s form, “but we’re going to work hard and make sure that’s the case in the future.”

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, talks to Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri at the drivers' parade

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, talks to Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri at the drivers’ parade

Photo by: Carl Bingham/Motorsport Images

In terms of other options for next year, Gasly didn’t have many other places that might have attracted. Aston Martin and Haas are the only teams where there are real question marks at the moment, as Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher respectively near the end of their deals. Oscar Piastri looks set to replace Nicholas Latifi at Williams, joining on loan due to a lack of space at Alpine, where Fernando Alonso shows little sign of wanting to finish the day.

But today’s confirmation is nonetheless a show of public faith between Gasly and AlphaTauri, ruling out any suggestion that he might drive elsewhere near the season. Gasly said in the press release that he confirms for next year that “being able to plan our development with the team for the next 18 months is a good base to work for the future.”

But the confirmation does much more than that: It also outlines an 18-month window for him to give the best audition he can to get a seat on a bigger team if he wants to realize his aspirations of fighting near the front on a regular basis. .

The 2024 season is when things can really move in the market, given the number of drivers who will be out of contract by then. For Gasly, that’s when talking about his future becomes more intriguing as new opportunities arise.

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