Speculation about the driver market is one of the most consistently dramatic elements of Formula One, and the level of controversy and gossip ahead of the 2023 season has reached unprecedented levels.
With contracts debated in court, sensational departures, unexpected demotions and an emotional retirement, the past few months have seen the 2023 grid shaken up considerably compares with the line-up of drivers for 2022.
Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes may be sticking rather than twisting, but there was plenty of change elsewhere.
Here, we run through the drivers confirmed for 2023, with Mick Schumacher missing out…
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton, George Russell
Hamilton signed a two-year extension back in July 2021, but that did little to quash the speculation over whether he would call it quits at the end of the year following a controversial end to that campaign – and ultimately his title defence.
“Working on my masterpiece, I’ll be the one to decide when it’s finished,” the seven-time champion said on Instagram in April, and with Mercedes improving after a difficult start to the 2022 season, there are no suggestions Hamilton will leave the sport anytime soon.
Addressing the pairing of Hamilton and new team-mate George Russell, who signed a multi-year deal with Mercedes in September 2021, team principal Toto Wolff said: “We are in a happy place with Lewis and there is no doubt that we are embarking the season and the next one in a good place. But it’s too early to discuss 2024. But having said that, I couldn’t wish for a better driver pairing.”
Red Bull: Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez
There will be no changes at the team on course to win their first constructors’ championship since 2013. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have struck a chord, with the latter so far ably supporting the world champion’s title defence.
Perez won the Monaco GP back in May and then capped off a memorable few days when signing a two-year extension at Red Bull in the week that followed.
That means at least two more seasons of Perez driving alongside Verstappen, who penned a new deal until 2028 at the start of the season. “I haven’t made up my mind what I will do after 2028. I might stop,” Verstappen admitted, although that is a long way off yet.
Ferrari: Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz
This pairing was forged in 2021, and despite a spate of retirements both Leclerc and Sainz are also posting grand prix wins for Ferrari, who had last won a GP in 2019 prior to this season.
With improvements being made, both drivers are set to remain at Ferrari for at least another two seasons.
Sainz signed an extension until the end of 2024 back in April, while Leclerc has a deal until 2026, according to Sky Sports F1, having first signed a five-year deal with the Scuderia back in 2019.
McLaren: Lando Norris, Oscar Piastri
Lando Norris signed a new McLaren contract before the start of the 2022 campaign which is set to take the 2–year-old all the way until the end of 2025.
Daniel Ricciardo, however, is coming to the end of his time with the Woking-based outfit after his departure was officially announced. The Australian has been unable to match Norris’ performances and results since joining McLaren at the beginning of 2021, and CEO Zak Brown admitted Ricciardo is not living up to expectations earlier this year.
Despite posting on social media last month to insist that he would be continuing with the team into 2023, the final year of Ricciardo’s contract has been cancelled. After a public dispute over current Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri with the Australian’s Alpine team, McLaren were told by the motorsport Contract Recognition board that the deal the team had agreed with the 21-year-old to replace Ricciardo for 2023 and 20224 had been approved.
Ricciardo could only realistically remain in Formula One if he is able to snatch a seat at one of Haas, Williams, or indeed Alpine, where he raced until the start of the 2021 season.
Alpine: Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly
A handful of top-10 finishes made for solid start to the 2022 season for Ocon, who signed a three-year contract until the end of 2024 last year.
But team-mate Fernando Alonso blew the driver market apart at the start of the summer break when he announced that he was moving to Aston Martin for 2023 to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel.
The French team was stunned by the two-time world champion’s decision, and quickly announced its current reserve driver and Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri as his replacement. Piastri, though, rebuffed the team in public almost immediately.
“I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year,” the Australian wrote on Twitter. “This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”
Piastri and manager Mark Webber agreed a deal to replace Ricciardo at McLaren, and F1’s Contract Recognition Board approved that move ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix in early September.
Instead, Alpine paid up Pierre Gasly’s remaining year on contract at AlphaTauri to bring him over to the French team, completing an all-French line-up.
“It’s a very special moment in my career,” Gasly said. “I’m closing a nine-year chapter with Red Bull and starting a very exciting one. I’m taking my [professional] life by myself and starting this new adventure with Alpine.
“It feels like the right step to match my ambitions and targets. I’m very excited about it.”
AlphaTauri: Yuki Tsunoda, Nyck de Vries
Gasly has been with AlphaTauri, the “sister” team to Red Bull, since 2020, and the Frenchman was contracted there until the end of the 2023 season, but chaos in other parts of the midfield saw him and the vacancy in the second Alpine seat saw the 26-year-old leave to partner childhood rival Esteban Ocon.
He left behind Yuki Tsunoda, who is into his second campaign with the team. He previously admitted to being a “bit surprised” when handed a one-year extension to race for AlphaTauri in 2022, but has now secured a third season with the team despite his results this season actually being worse.
He will be joined by Dutch driver Nyck de Vries, the F2 champion in 2019 and winner of the 2020-21 Formula E season. The 27-year-old has been a Mercedes reserve driver but was loaned to Williams earlier this season so he could make his F1 debut at Monza in place of the appendicitis-stricken Alex Albon. He excelled, finished ninth to earn two points on debut, before confirming his driver for 2023 at AlphaTauri a few weeks later.
Aston Martin: Fernando Alonso, Lance Stroll
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement from Formula One at the end of the current campaign ahead of the summer break, revealing that a despite to spend more time with his family and to engage more strongly in outside interests including fighting climate change as the principal reasons behind his decision.
That left Aston Martin in need of a lead driver, and they acted quickly to steal Fernando Alonso away from Alpine, offering the 41-year-old a “multi-year” deal which is believed to consist of two guaranteed seasons on the grid with the option of a third.
Details of Lance Stroll’s contract are sketchy but the 23-year-old is son of billionaire team owner Lawrence, and so is essentially guaranteed a drive alongside Alonso for 2023 at least.
Williams: Alex Albon, Logan Sargeant (TBC)
Williams have confirmed half of their line-up for next season, after revealing at the start of August that Thai-British driver Alex Albon will be in the cockpit with them for “2023 and beyond.”
The 26-year-old dropped of the grid in 2021 after being demoted to reserve driver by Red Bull in favour of Sergio Perez, but has impressed so far this season with a couple of strong points finishes in the worst car on the grid.
Team-mate Nicholas Latifi has struggled, though, with a series of crashes and poor performances leading the team to announce that the Canadian will be dropped at the end of the current campaign afetr three years racing in the highest tier of motorsport.
Mercedes’ Formula E world champion De Vries took part in a practice session for Williams at the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this season and would have been a candidate for Latifi’s seat had he not agreed a move to AlphaTauri, while Ricciardo was never interested in dropping so far down the grid. “I think the reality is now I won’t be on the grid in 2023. I think it’s now just trying to set up for 24,” Ricciardo said at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Ahead of the United States Grand Prix, team principal Jost Capito announced that American 21-year-old Logan Sargeant will be stepping up to partner Albon for 2023. The Floridian has been racing in Formula 2 since 2021, and he must finish at least fifth in this year’s championship in order to earn enough super license points to graduate to F1, meaning his appointment is still subject to confirmation, but he is well placed to reach the required 40 points.
Alfa Romeo: Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu
Valtteri Bottas signed a multi-year contract with Alfa Romeo when starting with the team for the 2022 season, and the Finn is enjoying being away from the pressure cooker that was supporting Hamilton at Mercedes.
“I put so much pressure on myself,” he recently admitted. “Towards the end of 2018, especially when I started to have the support role in the team, I really couldn’t take it, I really struggled. It was not fun.”
Ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo confirmed they would retain an unchanged driver line-up for 2023 with Zhou Guanyu having generally impressed in his rookie campaign.
Haas: Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg
File Magnussen under the vague “multi-year” contract category, as is the case with plenty of his fellow drivers, but having signed that deal from the start of 2022 the Dane will remain at Haas for 2023 at least.
And it has now been confirmed that Mick Schumacher will be replaced by Nico Hulkenberg.
Schumacher’s contract expires at the end of the season and the fact that he has repeatedly crashed the car this season, costing the team valuable vehicle components and cash, counted against him. Aston Martin reserve driver and former Renault and Williams racer Hulkenberg was Haas’ alternative, and the 35-year-old will now provide much more experience than the youngster, having competed in 181 F1 races in his career.
“I would like to thank Mick Schumacher for his contribution to the team over the past couple of years,” said Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner.
“Mick’s pedigree in the junior categories was well known and he has continued to grow and develop as a driver in his time with Haas F1 Team – culminating in his first Formula 1 points-scoring successes earlier this season.
“While choosing to go in separate directions for the future, the entire team wishes Mick well for the next steps in his career path and beyond.”
On Hulkenberg, Steiner added: “The experience and knowledge base Nico brings to the team is clear to see – with nearly 200 career starts in Formula 1 – and a reputation as being a great qualifier and a solid, reliable racer.
“These are attributes, which when you pair them together with Kevin Magnussen’s experience, gives us a very credible and well-seasoned driver line-up which we believe will help push the team onwards up the grid.”