If reports are to be believed, the Oscar Piastri saga is about to take another dramatic twist, with the young Australian rumoured to be replacing Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren for 2023.
In the wake of Sebastian Vettel's retirement announcement last Thursday, the German was surprisingly replaced at Aston Martin by fellow veteran Fernando Alonso.
The announcement of Alonso's move took his current team Alpine by surprise. Their announcement the following day that their test and reserve driver Oscar Piastri would replace Alonso also took the young Aussie by surprise, with Piastri himself refuting their announcement hours later.
Rumours have circulated that he may have a contract elsewhere for the coming year, given his confidence in turning down the Alpine seat. Now, it appears that he may have a big move lined up to McLaren.
F1: Oscar Piastri to make sensational McLaren switch and replace Daniel Ricciardo
Racing365.com initially reported on Friday morning that Oscar Piastri has agreed to join McLaren for the 2023 season, to replace his fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo has struggled in his time at McLaren, and rumours have circulated for some time that his place at the team was under threat. Prior to his retirement announcement, even four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was linked with the McLaren seat.
Now, it appears that Piastri may well be the man to replace Ricciardo. Racing365's report suggests that the FIA (Formula One's governing body) has ratified Piastri's contract for McLaren for 2023 and nullified his deal with Alpine. They go on to suggest that Piastri's deal with Alpine is only valid for this season, and does not extend to next year - hence his freedom to sign a deal elsewhere. Alpine supposedly failed to trigger the extension clause in Piastri's contract, leading to them losing the 2021 F2 champion's services.
The reports from Racing365 were followed by a more detailed piece from Motorsport.com, which seemed to confirm that McLaren will seek to dismiss Ricciardo from his contract a year early in order to promote Piastri to their race seat.
It's been a dramatic week of news for the F2 and F3 champion, but it seems like it will end happily for Oscar Piastri.
2023 driver line-up confirmed: Esteban Ocon 🤝 Oscar Piastri
After four years as part of the Renault and Alpine family, Reserve Driver Oscar Piastri is promoted to a race seat alongside Esteban Ocon starting from 2023. pic.twitter.com/4Fvy0kaPn7
— BWT Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) August 2, 2022
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. This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.
— Oscar Piastri (@OscarPiastri) August 2, 2022
The rumours of Oscar Piastri's arrival at McLaren appear to leave Daniel Ricciardo without an F1 seat for 2023. The eight-time race winner took McLaren's first win in nine years last season at Monza, but has otherwise struggled to match his impressive young English teammate Lando Norris during their two years together.
Ricciardo himself was adamant earlier this month that he will be driving with McLaren in 2023 - if that is true, it now seems more likely that it will be with their Formula E or IndyCar teams than in F1. Despite that, Motorsport.com suggest Ricciardo has no interest in racing away from F1 next year.
There may be a rather humorous option left for The Honey Badger. In the aftermath of the Piastri fallout, Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer said that there would be "no issue" in taking Ricciardo back to the team. The former Red Bull man drove for the team in their former guise of Renault from 2019 to 2020. He took two podiums before surprising the team with his departure to McLaren.
Sebastian Vettel's retirement announcement has unexpectedly kicked off one of the most dramatic F1 silly seasons in recent memory, and the latest reports of Oscar Piastri's move to McLaren will only complicate things further. Long-term fans of the sport will hope that it will not leave Daniel Ricciardo without a seat for 2023.