F1 Summer Break Concludes- Part Two; Sainz, Gasly, Sign New Contracts
With the shock of having Daniel Ricciardo leaving for Renault, many spots for next season became wide open. Only a week later following Riccardo’s decision, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, following 17 seasons of formula 1, has decided to leave the sport at the end of the season.
Not surprising enough, it was not a full announcement of retirement. This was confirmed by former teammate Jenson Button, himself now racing in the World Endurance Championship for Russia’s SMP.
"It's always down to the individual when they choose to leave Formula One," Button said to ESPN F1. "He has done the same thing as what I chose to do - leave but leave it open, for one year after, to go back. I think that's the right option to do.”
But Button does caution that if the McLaren team begins to fight for not just the best of the rest, but also begins to contend for the top three positions, Alonso might change his mind and return to the team if there are still openings.
"And if the McLaren's quick and it's winning races, he'll be back to Formula One, definitely.” He said. “Every driver in the world would love to be in a winning car in Formula One. You retire, I think, because you get bored of the travel and the stress of it, and if your results aren't there, there's no reason to be there. If the car is quick, I'm sure he'd want to jump back in in 2020."
Only a few days later, with all the speculation of who was going to replace the Spaniard at McLaren, what would be the perfect answer. Another Spaniard. Carlos Sainz Jr. was only announced just last week that he would leave Renault and go to McLaren to replace Alonso from 2019 onwards on a two-year contract. With nowhere to go after Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg filled the spots at Enstone, Sainz Jr. waited for many weeks to see if he was the candidate to replace Ricciardo at Red Bull but decided that the Austrian team was too long in their decision and left for Woking.
Red Bull finally made their decision on Monday (August 20) by signing up Frenchman Pierre Gasly from the sister Toro Rosso team. It seemed to be the logical choice since most of Red Bull’s drivers have been through the junior ranks at Toro Rosso, and the Norman from Rouen was no exception. Taking fourth at the race in Bahrain last April attracted the attention of Team Manager Christian Horner, who fells that Gasly himself is one of the drivers to watch in the future.
“Since Pierre (Gasly) first stepped into a Formula One seat with Scuderia Toro Rosso less than a year ago, he has proved the undoubted talent that Red Bull has nurtured since his early career," Horner said on the Red Bull website.
Gasly himself was overjoyed about the decision and felt that this was the team to push him forward.
Red Bull has always looked to fight for championships or victories and that's what I want," added Gasly to the AFP. “I'm a really competitive guy and when I do something it's always to fight for the best and top positions."
Now that Red Bull, Mercedes, and Renault have secured their positions, now what about the rest? The American Haas F1 Team still has two spots open, along with Force India (if you do not include Lance Stroll) Williams, Toro Rosso, Sauber, McLaren (one position left) and yes, let us not forget about Ferrari. Is Kimi Raikkonen coming back?
This is the largest number of seats open for quite some time, and everything will fill probably when the Italian Grand Prix comes around in two weeks. But for now, the racing resumes this coming weekend at one of the most popular circuits for the drivers: Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, racingnation.com and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.