Piastri Sargeant Vettel 2022

What Sebastian Vettel’s retirement means for F2 drivers’ F1 chances

With the announcement of four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel’s retirement from the sport at the end of the year F1 Feeder Series takes a look what this means for Formula 2 drivers hopeful of an F1 seat.

By Tyler Foster

Approaching the summer break it seemed that once again, just as in 2019 and 2021, we may have a situation where the F2 champion doesn’t graduate to F1 and has to look elsewhere. With the current crop of F1 drivers signing longer-term contracts in recent years resulting in the driver market being fairly static. At best multiple drivers would need to contend with fighting over the same seat.

However, with Vettel’s departure, it has reopened an important factor towards creating speculation during ‘silly season’: retirement. Within the F1 grid lie several of the old guard; drivers who were part of the previous generation. This includes multiple world-champions such as Hamilton, Alonso and of course Vettel. Even slightly less accomplished drivers such as Ricciardo are getting close to the end of their F1 tenure.

With a few ‘big’ drivers looking close to retirement, it will open up the market in a way we haven’t seen for several years. Firstly, Vettel’s departure will leave a seat vacant at the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team for 2023. This is the most interesting factor, as it now creates an opportunity for certain F2 drivers who may previously have been with a slim chance of making it to Formula 1. It seems more likely that Lawrence Stroll will want to fill the gap left by Vettel with a current experienced member of the F1 paddock, such as struggling McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo or Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, rather than bringing in a fresh rookie who has graduated from Formula 2.

While it is currently Aston Martin who are open to speculation, it is more likely that either McLaren, Alpine or Williams may be where the opportunities are for the hopeful Formula 2 drivers. With Latifi also being at risk due to his contract with Williams coming to an end this season, it is almost certain that like Stroll, Albon will also have a new teammate for 2023.

A lot of the speculation and general opportunity derives from who Lawrence Stroll manages to acquire as Vettel’s replacement. If he does go for a current driver, then a seat will open up elsewhere in another team, but if they do bring in a rookie (maybe even Piastri) then there will be less opportunity elsewhere on the grid. Either way it’s chaos.

Driver Contracts

For reference, here are all the driver contract situations for those we consider vulnerable from losing their seat at the end of this year. 

Daniel Ricciardo’s poor form in the new regulation cars has made him a prime target for reconsideration. However, the 33-year-old Aussie does have a contract with McLaren until 2023, meaning that it would have to be a mutual decision for him to move on.

Fernando Alonso has performed well this year and showed that despite his age, he still has the raw ability that made him a two-time F1 champion. The 40-year-old Spaniard is out of contract at the end of the year and will surely be retiring within the next 18 months.

Williams’ Nicholas Latifi is out of a contract at the end of this season and is most likely going to be leaving Formula One.

While both Mick Schumacher and Guanyu Zhou are out of their respective contracts at the end of this season, they are outside candidates to move team considering their large financial backings. 

Nonetheless, let’s now take a look at the key names within Formula 2 who might be on the cards to join F1 for next year. 

Felipe Drugovich

The current championship leader has been dominant for most parts of the season so far and looks on course to become the first Brazilian to win the series. If he did win the series, it would mean that returning to F2 would not be possible, although at the age of 22 he will be looking at moving on anyway. He is not connected to any F1 junior team or academy and this has for the most part kept him out of speculation, however he doesn’t have any affiliation and therefore could wiggle his way into negotiations with any team looking for a driver.

Despite this, he has been rumoured to have turned down a reserve role in F1 and may be looking towards IndyCar for his future in motorsport.

Théo Pourchaire

The 18-year-old has had a strong season in F2, currently second in the championship. While he still has plenty of time to make F1, his affiliation with the Sauber Academy makes it clearer that he will have to more than likely wait for a seat to become vacant with Alfa Romeo. This doesn’t look likely for next year and due to Frédéric Vasseur’s affinity for the young Frenchman, he is unlikely to be loaned away from the clutches of Sauber. 

Logan Sargeant

Sargeant’s rise may come as a surprise, but the 21-year-old American has been a very capable driver since fighting for the F3 title back in 2020. A rookie in F2, Logan Sargeant is third in the championship this year and has two Feature Race wins to his name. Having joined the Williams Academy towards the end of last year it would be almost fairy-tale stuff to see the young American move into F1 at the peak of the sport’s foray into the US market.

With Williams’ team principal, Jos Capito, looking to fill what will probably be a departing Latifi’s seat, Sargeant very much has a genuine shot at being in Formula 1 next in a similar way to how Zhou Guanyu found his way to Alfa Romeo. The key for Sargeant, other than finishing the F2 season well and getting a chance at an FP1 session with Williams this year (at COTA anyone?) is needing to find the funds to get that seat. It does seem that he is a major option at this point.

Oscar Piastri

Well you didn’t think we’d forgotten about him did you? The reigning Formula 2 champion has been patiently waiting on the sidelines ever since Alpine confirmed that they would get him a race seat for 2023. Unfortunately for Piastri, there isn’t a clear cut option, however it is clear that he is considered a well sought-after commodity.

The 21-year-old Aussie has been speculated as being considered by Alpine (as a replacement for Alonso), McLaren (as a replacement for Ricciardo), Aston Martin (as a replacement for Vettel) and finally Williams (as a replacement for Latifi). Either way, it seems certain that Piastri will in some way be in F1 for next year, however, if Alpine are unable to give him a full-time drive or sort a loan deal then it will most likely result in Piastri leaving Alpine for good.

Nyck De Vries

Finally, another driver who is not quite a Formula 2 driver anymore, but having not been a part of the F1 grid he is still an F2 alumni. The 2019 F2 Champion has gone on to impress in LMP1/2 while also being the 2021 Formula E Champion. Being part of the Mercedes fold always helps and as a result the first Dutch driver to have won an FIA championship has already had two FP1 sessions this year with Williams in Barcelona and the other with Mercedes at Paul Ricard.

All this grooming for a reigning world champion surely must amount to something. If Sargeant isn’t on for the Williams seat next year then De Vries looks a solid option. He is also in play for the Aston Martin seat with their current Mercedes engine connection. Ultimately, like Piastri, De Vries is considered a deserving driver who has yet to be fortunate enough to compete in F1. Maybe 2023 will be his chance.

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