On the first day of Formula 1's summer break, Fernando Alonso lobbed a Aston Martin 2023-sized bombshell into the driver market, leaving Alpine scrambling to find a replacement.
Their attempts to promote reserve driver Oscar Piastri into a 2023 race seat have been scuppered by a rather strong denial that he would drive for the team, as he looks set to partner Lando Norris at McLaren in place of Daniel Ricciardo.
It's been quite a silly season in F1 – and motorsport in general thanks to the Alex Palou/Chip Ganassi/McLaren situation over in IndyCar – but for how long is each driver contracted to their current team?
Who has the longest deal, and who needs a new contract at the end of 2022?
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F1 driver contracts similar across big three – except one
The most coveted seats in F1 are those at the big three teams – Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, and with some negotiating to do for bosses Toto Wolff, Christian Horner and Mattia Binotto as most of the deals expire in the short term – with one big exception.
This is the contract of reigning World Champion Max Verstappen at Red Bull.
Dutchman Verstappen is locked into Red Bull officially until the end of 2028, which is by far the longest contract of any current F1 driver.
It makes Verstappen and Red Bull something of an outlier among the other drivers and teams, but given the level he's operating at and the fact that the Milton Keynes squad have rediscovered their mojo, it could be a fruitful partnership if they see it out.
For comparison, Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez inked fresh terms after winning the Monaco Grand Prix, extending his stay until the end of 2024.
This is the same scenario over at Maranello, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr set to drive the Cavallino Rampante for a similar period of time.
Mercedes have both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on F1 driver contracts until the end of 2023 – although Russell is the outfit's chosen long-term replacement for Hamilton, who is nearing retirement.
When F1 driver contracts expire
|Driver||Team||Contract End||Salary (in millions, US dollars)|
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull||2028||35|
|Sergio Perez||Red Bull||2024||10|
|Carlos Sainz Jr||Ferrari||2024||10|
|Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||2022 - is retiring at season's end||15|
|Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||Open||10|
|Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||2025||10|
|Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||2022||1|
Stroll's open contract at Aston Martin explained
With Sebastian Vettel bringing his F1 career to a close, old rival Fernando Alonso was keen to replace the German at Aston Martin, as his own two-year Alpine deal was coming to an end.
Alonso was frustrated with Alpine's attempts to phase him out after 2023, and so jumped ship to Aston – where he'll partner Lance Stroll, who is on an open contract thanks to the fact that his father Lawrence owns the team and wants to make Lance an F1 World Champion.
As long as Lance wants to race in F1, there'll be a seat for him.
Alpine attempted to replace Alonso with their reserve driver Oscar Piastri, although the young Australian looks set to move to Woking and McLaren alongside Lando Norris.
This is despite Daniel Ricciardo having a contract in place for 2023, with the option to take up that third year of his deal on the driver's side.
However, so poor has Ricciardo's form been in 2021 and 2022, that McLaren have decided he's out for '23, with Piastri drafted in.
Elsewhere, Valtteri Bottas jokingly ruled himself out of the then-vacant Aston Martin seat after Vettel announced he was off, by saying "I have a contract," after years of being on one-year deals at Mercedes.
The Finn's deal with Alfa Romeo runs until 2025 – and alongside Norris is the second longest driver contract in F1 behind Verstappen's monster deal.
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Zhou, Tsunoda and Schumacher face contract renewals
The likes of Zhou Guanyu, Yuki Tsuonda and Mick Schumacher are all in need of a strong start to the second half of the season as they face contract renewal talks with their respective teams.
Alfa Romeo have been impressed with Zhou's performances in his rookie year, even if results, through poor reliability, have not earned him just rewards for his efforts.
Tsunoda is now into his second F1 season, and has improved after an overall poor rookie year, book-ended by good results.
He's matched teammate Pierre Gasly in taking three points finishes as the AT03 has struggled to be competitive.
As for Mick Schumacher, helped into the second Haas seat by his and the team's links with Ferrari, his place was under threat earlier in the season.
Team boss Guenther Steiner was unhappy that he totalled two chassis in Saudi Arabia and Monaco, splitting them in half in accidents – and warned him that performances needed to improve.
Schumacher banked his first points at Silverstone in the British Grand Prix, and followed it up with sixth in Austria.
If he is to remain in F1 beyond 2022, it will probably be with Haas, thanks to a lack of open seats elsewhere on the grid.
F1 Podcast: Steiner exclusive on 2022, Schumacher and officialdom
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth are joined by Haas F1 Team Principal Guenther Steiner to discuss the inner workings of his team, regulation changes in the sport and driver switches.