Formula One: Silly Season

By: Ixchel Gonzalez

It may have only been 3 months since the 2022 season concluded, but with all of the action that happened off the track, it has led to many changes in the paddock; starting with the drivers grid. As anyone knows, the world of Formula One is cutthroat. A driver either swims or drowns depending on how they perform and if they are able to push their car to the cusp of glory. If a driver crumbles under the pressure, they are bound to be replaced by the hottest incoming talent. This game of musical chairs with drivers and their seats in Formula One became known as silly season.

One driver who (unfortunately) lost his seat in Formula One was Mick Schumacher, son of racing legend Michael Schumacher, who did not renew his contract with Haas Formula One team after not being able to match his teammates’ performance. This led to Nico Hulkenberg being called up to make his return to Formula One with Haas Formula One team for the 2023 season. This interesting driver line up for Haas begs the question if both drivers will be able to keep their cars to themselves, especially given their rocky past. Another driver that did not perform and meet the team’s expectations was Nicholas Latifi. The team announced pretty early on in the 2022 season that they would not renew his contract with Williams F1 team, given how many times he put the car in the wall and cost the team millions; it was a no brainer. The question of who would replace him was up in the air, as there were 2 main contenders: Formula E driver, Nyck De Vries, and Formula Two driver, Logan Saergent. These two drivers and Formula Two champion, Oscar Piastri, were the talk of the paddock and were the names the talking heads covered for the 2022 silly season. 

Silly season was in full swing when Sebastian Vettel (4-time Formula One world champion), announced that he will be retiring from the sport at the end of the 2022 season. This left a hole not only in the racing world due to him being one of the most liked drivers, but it also left a hole in the Aston Martin team. Once word got out that they had an empty seat, many drivers started circling like vultures. Someone who was not expected was Fernando Alonso, who announced he would not be continuing to race for the Alpine F1 team and would instead take Sebastian Vettel’s spot at Aston Martin. Alpine had no idea this was coming, with Otmar Szafnauer (Alpine Team Principal) allegedly being told the day it was announced (ouch). To save face, Alpine promptly announced that Formula Two World champion, Oscar Piastri, would be taking Fernando Alsonso’s seat. One would think that Oscar would have taken this offer in a snap, but very shortly after Alpine and Formula One announced his seat at Alpine, Oscar posted a story on his social media saying that they announced this without his permission and that he will not be driving for Alpine for the 2023 season. Period. This would be the equivalent of a mic drop, but in Formula One. Due to this bombshell, there were many speculations as to why someone who did not (officially) have a seat in Formula One would decline the opportunity to get one. The dots were finally connected once Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren F1 Team announced that he will not be continuing to race for them after the 2022 season and that they mutually agreed to terminate his contract. Seeing that McLaren bought out Daniel Ricciardo’s contract (A $36 million buy-out to be exact), it led to speculations that they went through all that trouble just to sign Oscar Piastri. This was confirmed when Oscar Piastri officially signed for McLaren. Alpine did not miss a beat and signed Pierre Gasly shortly after.

Once Pierre Gasly moved up to race for Alpine, he left an empty seat at AlphaTauri. This led to even more vultures circling. One of which was Nyck De Vries. Many people speculated that he would go to Williams since he was a reserve driver for them, and it made the most sense for him to go there. Yet, when he announced he would be going to AlphaTauri, it raised even more questions about who the Williams seat would go to. There were many names thrown around, although the one that seemed to stick was Logan Seargent, who was currently racing in Formula Two. His situation was not the easiest seeing that he was short a couple super license points to be able to even race in Formula One. It all came down to the very last race of the Formula Two season, which he needed to finish 6th or higher in to get enough super license points to race in Formula One. He finished the race in 4th place, securing his seat at Williams.

The drivers were not the only ones that had a silly season; the team principals also had their turn. It all started with Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto resigning. After the amount of record breaking, mind boggling strategy calls from Ferrari (Mattia Binotto), there was speculation that it led to the sacking of Mattia Binotto, and even if he did resign, it was only to save face after running Ferrari’s and Charles Leclerc’s chances of a championship to the ground. After this announcement, Williams team principal Jost Capito made an abrupt departure from Formula One. No one saw it coming since his season with the Williams F1 team seemed promising and considering the fact that his leadership could lead to real development and improvement. This now meant that Williams would have to start from scratch. A day after Jost Capito announced his departure, Ferrari announced Alfa Romeo team principal, Fred Vasseur, to make his move to the prancing horse. Then it was announced that team principal Andreas Seidl would leave McLaren and be appointed CEO of Sauber group (Alfa Romeo). This move was strategic since Audi is soon joining Formula One with Alfa Romeo, so it was the right chess piece moved by Andreas career-wise. With this new vacant spot, Andrea Stella became appointed McLaren team principal. At the start of the new year, Williams finally announced James Vowles as their new team principal.

All of the driver transfers to team principal transfers made this silly season the most exciting and chaotic one in history. From under the table deals to the stabs in the back, this is what makes Formula One thrilling off the track. The questions of who will lose their spot and who will occupy it keeps fans on their toes and makes the season unpredictable. As the start of the new season begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix, keep a lookout for the new changes on the grid, considering next season it could look completely different.


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