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Another twist in F1’s silly season? Ricciardo linked with Alpine return

F1’s driver market unexpectedly burst into life on Monday with the shock news that Alonso is to leave Alpine and join Aston Martin from 2023 on a multi-year contract.

The 41-year-old Spaniard, who won back-to-back F1 titles in 2005 and 2006, will replace Sebastian Vettel after the four-time world champion announced he is retiring from the sport at the end of the season.

Alonso’s departure has left a gaping hole at Alpine – they announced that their test and reserve driver, Oscar Piastri, would fill the vacancy for 2023. But stunningly Piastri shot back “that is wrong” and “I will not be driving for Alpine”.

A report by French publication AutoHebdo claims that Alpine could make a surprise move to re-sign Ricciardo, who previously drove for the Enstone outfit prior to their 2021 rebranding in 2019 and 2020.

According to the report, the driver domino effect originally kicked off by Vettel’s retirement could see Piastri being snapped up by McLaren.

The 21-year-old Australian is considered one of the brightest talents in motorsport and has many admirers in the F1 paddock.

Prior to Alonso’s shock switch, Alpine had been looking to find Piastri a seat on the F1 grid for 2023, possibly as part of a short-term loan deal to a rival team.

At one stage it looked as though Williams would be Piastri’s landing spot, but McLaren has emerged as a potential alternative.

Ricciardo is contracted to McLaren until the end of 2023 but has found himself under mounting pressure after struggling to match the impressive pace of teammate Lando Norris.

The Australian’s future has been the subject of intense speculation ever since McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown admitted that Ricciardo had not met expectations amid his ongoing struggles.

Brown also revealed “mechanisms” within Ricciardo’s contract that could end it early but it is believed the option is on the driver side, rather than the team.

Before the 2022 season had started, an agreement between Alpine and McLaren was struck that would enable the latter to call upon the services of Piastri if they required a stand-in for their drivers.

McLaren were also understood to be considering Piastri as an option in case Ricciardo left the team at the end of the year, but Ricciardo recently reiterated his commitment to seeing out the rest of his contract with McLaren.

“I’m committed to McLaren until the end of next year and am not walking away from the sport,” he wrote on social media last month.

“Appreciate it hasn’t always been easy, but who wants easy?!”

That was before the news involving Vettel and Alonso kicked the 2023 driver market and rumour mill into overdrive.

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