Speculation about the driver market is one of the most consistently dramatic elements of Formula One, and after the level of controversy and gossip reached unprecedented levels, the new 2023 season is now around the corner.
With contracts debated in court, sensational departures, unexpected demotions and an emotional retirement, the past few months saw the 2023 grid shaken up considerably compared 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…
Red Bull: Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez
There will be no changes at the team who won their first constructors’ championship since 2013 last season. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have struck a chord, with the latter 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 2022 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 the 2022 season.
With improvements being made and fresh hope for the 2023 car, 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.
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton, George Russell
He stayed and endured a difficult 2022, and now contract talk is resurfacing as Hamilton enters the final year of his contract.
Team principal Toto Wolff said: “Nothing is dragging on. Alignment is great. It’s almost not like a first priority, sitting down, because this is going to be a journey that will continue.”
Hamilton’s aim for this year will be to better teammate George Russell, who finished above the seven-time champion last year.
Alpine: Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly
A handful of top-10 finishes made for solid 2022 season for Ocon, who signed a three-year contract until the end of 2024 in 2021.
But 2022 team-mate Fernando Alonso then 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.”
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 23-year-old all the way until the end of 2025.
Daniel Ricciardo, however, saw his time with the Woking-based outfit come to an end last season. The Australian was unable to match Norris’ performances and results since joining McLaren at the beginning of 2021, and CEO Zak Brown admitted Ricciardo was not living up to expectations last year.
After a public dispute over Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri with Alpine, 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, intriguingly, is back at Red Bull as their third driver for 2023.
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.
Aston Martin: Fernando Alonso, Lance Stroll
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement from Formula One to spend more time with his family and to engage more strongly in outside interests including fighting climate change.
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 24-year-old is son of billionaire team owner Lawrence, and so is essentially guaranteed a drive alongside Alonso for 2023 at least.
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.”
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 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. 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 in 2022 actually being worse.
He is 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 last 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.
Williams: Alex Albon, Logan Sargeant
Williams confirmed half of their line-up for this year when revealing back in August that Thai-British driver Alex Albon will be in the cockpit with them for “2023 and beyond.”
The 26-year-old dropped off the grid in 2021 after being demoted to reserve driver by Red Bull in favour of Sergio Perez, but impressed in 2022 with a couple of strong points finishes in the worst car on the grid.
Teammate Nicholas Latifi struggled, though, with a series of crashes and poor performances leading the team to announce that the Canadian would be dropped at the end of the campaign after three years racing in the highest tier of motorsport.
Team principal Jost Capito announced that American 21-year-old Logan Sargeant would be stepping up to partner Albon for 2023. The Floridian had been racing in Formula 2 since 2021.