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F1 silly season: Is a shock return on the cards?

The summer break is the traditional start of F1's silly season, so RacingNews365 lists some of the biggest paddock rumours!

Grid sprintrace Belgium
Article
To news overview © XPBimages

Many of the current F1 drivers seem likely to remain on the grid next year with a number of long-term contracts being signed in recent years.

However, this is not the case for all drivers and a new sponsor at one team may just cause a surprise on the 2024 grid.

Red Bull

Although Daniel Ricciardo is frequently mentioned for a return to Red Bull, it does not appear that Christian Horner and Helmut Marko will ditch Sergio Perez and allow the Australian to be promoted.

The eight-time Grand Prix winner will first have to prove himself long-term at AlphaTauri whilst waiting to see how Perez performs.

While the Mexican is 125 points behind Max Verstappen in the battle for the world title, second place in the standings remains a success.

In addition, the Red Bull brand has become even bigger in Mexico and South America thanks to Perez, so there are few reasons to rip up his contract.

Should it happen though, Ricciardo would probably be Horner's first option.

RN365 driver line-up expectation for 2024: Verstappen & Perez

Mercedes

Recent performances show that seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton seems far from finished in F1 and is negotiating a new contract with Mercedes.

The length of his new contract is still unclear, but the signature on a new commitment would be just a formality, according to Hamilton and Toto Wolff.

Should he re-sign for just one year, perhaps another opportunity could arise at Ferrari. Of course, it seems to be an unlikely scenario, as it would also see Hamilton lose a potential future ambassadorship with Mercedes after his retirement.

Still, rumours continue to circulate around the paddock that Hamilton could still make the switch to Scuderia. A fantasy or reality? In 2025 we will know more!

As for George Russell, there are no surprises and he will certainly be seen back in the Mercedes car.

RN365 driver line-up expectation for 2024: Hamilton & Russell

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Aston Martin

Fernando Alonso reiterated just before the summer break that he was happy with his choice of Aston Martin.

Despite his age (42), Alonso comes across as a young talent who is far from finished with Formula 1. Next to him on the grid, we will see Lance Stroll back in 2024.

The Canadian is experiencing a shaky year and seems to have a lot to learn from the two-time world champion.

Aston Martin doesn't seem to see the need for changes until after 2024 or maybe even 2025. The chances of Honda continuing with Alonso in 2026 seem very minimal after the public falling out back in their McLaren days, despite the Japanese officially denying it.

Moreover, Alonso, at 45 years old, would be mocking all understanding of the laws of nature if he still manages to perform at the highest level.

The biggest change for the team over the next few years will be the step-by-step move into the new factory that is almost finished, with several departments already working in completed areas.

This seems to be a sign that owner Lawrence Stroll still wants to continue with the team, although a strong businessman like Stroll can always make another choice and perhaps sell the team for a nice price.

AlphaTauri, for example, is said to have been subjected to a bid of over a billion before, and with a brand new factory, the Aston Martin team will definitely be worth even more at this point.

RN365 driver line-up expectation for 2024: Alonso and Stroll

Ferrari

Although there seems to be some tension between Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at times, it does not appear that either driver will leave the Scuderia early, let alone be forced out.

However, it will be interesting to see what happens after 2024. Both drivers are linked to moves away: in the paddock, we already heard the names of Mercedes and Aston Martin passing by.

Yet the love between "Prince" Leclerc and Ferrari does not seem to have diminished and so it seems likely that Leclerc will continue to drive for Ferrari beyond 2024 - the Monégasque and his manager Nicholas Todt will bet on a long-term contract.

For Sainz, things are a bit different. The Spaniard seems to be disadvantaged at times by Ferrari as the Italians seem to consider Leclerc a front-runner.

Not an ideal situation for Sainz, so he already seems to be looking a bit further afield.

Given his experience, Sainz seems to be the ideal candidate to join Sauber in 2025. That team will go through life as Audi from 2026 and there Sainz can work again with Andreas Seidl, with whom he also previously worked with at McLaren.

Sainz can be seen as the experienced leader who can push the team, helping to make the transition from Sauber to Audi as smooth as possible.

Other teams will also be interested in Sainz, who is known as a consistent driver and one that can provide clear feedback.

RN365 driver line-up expectation for 2024: Leclerc and Sainz

McLaren

McLaren may have struggled early in the season, but during the summer break the team has praised heavily and the drivers hailed as the future of Formula 1 - not entirely unjustified, by the way.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri are both young, fast and driven.

The drivers can take each other to the next level, which will help the team move forward even further. Consequently, in 2024, both drivers will be on the grid for McLaren.

Above all, the fans will be the big winners, as no doubt the talented drivers will duel with each other.

RN365 driver line-up expectation for 2024: Norris and Piastri

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Alpine

An unlikely rumor circulated on the paddock in Belgium: Esteban Ocon would be leaving Alpine for Ferrari - something that we believe will not happen.

The drivers at Ferrari, as written above, are fixed for next year and Ocon feels at home at Alpine. The latter is also true of teammate Pierre Gasly.

Both drivers hope to fight for top five and top 10 places more often in the second part of the season, with importance placed on the other F1 teams allowing Alpine to make some changes to the current [underperforming] engine.

This should allow them to gain a few tenths of a second per lap and, in the fight behind Red Bull, that could provide the necessary place gains!

After that, Alpine will have to continue focus on 2024, otherwise, the two respected French drivers will undoubtedly become impatient.

Alpine also has yet to look for a new team boss. Mattia Binotto is mentioned but does not seem to be a top candidate yet.

In any case, it is not yet certain whether Binotto wants to return to Formula 1 and, if so, where he will or can make his return.

The highly experienced and vaunted engineer could also be an interesting option for F1 itself as Stefano Domenicali's right-hand man.

Who knows? Maybe the French team will keep faith in interim team boss Bruno Famin and he will also be at the helm in 2024.

RN365 driver line-up expectation for 2024: Ocon and Gasly

Williams

At first glance, everything seems relaxed at Williams.

The team is quietly building the future under the leadership of James Vowles and has already brought in Pat Fry.

Front-runner Alexander Albon will continue to race for the once-successful team through at least 2024 and will no doubt look to see where he can go after next year. Several times Albon has expressed his desire to stay with Williams because he can take the team forward, but will the Thai-Briton remain steadfast should a team such as Ferrari come forward?

Teammate Logan Sargeant also appears to be safe, as Williams seems satisfied with the American's development.

In the second part of the season, however, Sargeant will have to narrow the gap with Albon - not an easy task - and that is precisely why several drivers will send their CVs to Williams.

Felipe Drugovich, Jack Doohan and Frederik Vesti are drivers also mentioned for a potential spot at Williams.

Doohan will have to impress in the remaining F2 races, as will Vesti - though his support from Mercedes could pay dividends.

Sargeant seems to bring a good sponsorship package to Williams and thus makes his contribution to the team financially as well. Rumours are circulating in the paddock that Sargeant is bringing even more money than Nicholas Latifi did.

But it is not clear how much money is involved, as the amounts mentioned from sources in the paddock vary too widely.

The money is now less necessary for Williams with the team currently seventh in the Constructors' standings, meaning it will bring in a relatively large amount of prize money this year, which should make the team less dependent on the money brought in by sponsors.

At the same time, however, a lawsuit with a $100 million claim for damages is pending against Williams. The case has been filed by the team's former Marketing Executive, Claudia Schwarz and could make for a financial hit.

RN365 driver line-up expectation for 2024: Albon and Sargeant

Haas

It is only a matter of time before Haas will confirm Hulkenberg for 2024.

Haas gets another nice sponsor with Alfa Romeo and that very sponsor could create a change. Kevin Magnussen does not seem to be sure of a seat in 2024, so it might be an ideal opportunity for Alfa Romeo to bring Antonio Giovinazzi back to Formula 1.

The Italian has since won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Ferrari but still seems interested in returning to F1.

Despite appearing to have been written off for a return, the Italian still had a chance for a seat last year.

At the 2022 US GP in Austin, Giovinazzi had a chance to prove himself in the first free practice, but he crashed there.

According to sources in the paddock, that incident prevented Giovinazzi from taking over Mick Schumacher's seat but maybe the now 29-year-old driver can provide a surprising comeback.

Another name that comes up frequently is Théo Pourchaire. He is the third driver at Sauber, where we currently still find the Alfa Romeo sponsorship.

The Italian marque knows the Frenchman well and therefore could push to give the talent a chance, although we also know that after Nikita Mazepin and Schumacher, Guenther Steiner is no longer yearning for young talents.

Maybe Pourchaire's manager, Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur, can change Steiner's mind. The Frenchman is currently leading the F2 championship and should he win the title, a move to F1 seems a logical next step.

RN365 driver line-up expectation for 2024: Hulkenberg and Giovinazzi/Pourchaire

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Sauber

At Sauber, there is a possible switch on the way.

Valtteri Bottas, despite his shaky performance this season, seems certain of his seat in 2024, as he has a long-term contract in his pocket.

Things look less rosy for teammate Zhou Guanyu at the Swiss-based team. The Chinese driver is performing satisfactorily and has also been faster than Bottas on several occasions.

Yet he still has not signed a new contract and the Chinese market still does not seem to be experiencing an "F1 boom" as it did in America thanks to Netflix - the streaming service cannot be seen in China.

So there are a number of drivers vying for Zhou's seat. What about Drugovic, Doohan, Vesti or Pourchaire?

Of those, Pourchaire seems the most obvious choice on paper, as he is a junior at Sauber whilst for Zhou, it is to be hoped that the team will give him clarity soon so he can possibly look further afield.

RN365 driver line-up expectation for 2024: Bottas and Zhou/Pourchaire

AlphaTauri

After the departure of Nyck de Vries, it seems that both Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo will drive for the Italian-based team next year.

Ricciardo is only on loan from Red Bull for six months, but at the same time, RacingNews365 sources indicate that he will also drive for AlphaTauri next year.

However, should Perez disappoint or fortunes conspire against him, the Australian seems to be the ideal candidate to take over the Mexican's seat.

For now, however, it does not look like we will see Ricciardo back with his old team anytime soon.

After this year, it will be interesting to see what path the Red Bull affiliate will take: it seems to want to move away from the junior team profile by racing under a new sponsor and-or team name.

No doubt Laurent Mekies, the team's new Team Principal from next season, will already be busy analysing the transfer market.

Ge may manage to find an American talent, which could boost the American market with the arrival of Ford in 2026. Should Hugo Boss become the team's title sponsor, however, things may change.

Honda's role then seems likely to diminish soon and could affect Tsunoda's place... but does Hugo Boss possibly have another driver in mind? The sponsorship of the German clothing brand announced by RacingNews365 could cause a stir for the team.

Looking at the Red Bull juniors, Liam Lawson seems to be the only serious option for promotion to Formula 1 at the moment. Whether it will come to that in 2024, however, remains very much to be seen.

RN365 driver line-up expectation for 2024: Tsunoda and Ricciardo

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying