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Alpine F1 Team

The five leading candidates to replace Ocon at Alpine

With Esteban Ocon leaving Alpine at the end of the season, the French team has a deep pool of drivers to draw upon, but who is the best fit?

Doohan Schumacher
Analysis
To news overview © XPBimages

Esteban Ocon will leave Alpine at the end of the current F1 season, but where he will go and who will replace him are yet to be determined.

The official announcement reads that Alpine and Ocon "agree to part ways at the end of the 2024 season", which is interesting wording, if not a surprise.

To an extent, the writing was on the wall. In what was an increasingly fraught relationship, the signs it was heading this way had been there for a while - and certainly long before the punch-up at Portier on the opening lap of the recent Monaco Grand Prix.

That incident may have accelerated the timeline, but it was not fundamental to the end result. Correlation, not causation. Ocon was already seeking pastures new and Alpine was looking elsewhere for Pierre Gasly's next team-mate.

The 27-year-old's next move will be confirmed in due course, with Haas and the Audi project at Stake currently his most likely destinations. However, the moving face of the F1 driver market is becoming more and more unpredictable, and the 'silly season' moniker is becoming increasingly apt.

What we do know is that Alpine finds itself with a spot in its driver line-up for next season that will definitely not be filled by one of its existing drivers. Such is the competition for race seats in F1, five options immediately spring to mind, but who holds the cards?

The front-runner

Jack Doohan is in the prime position for the Alpine seat, make no mistake. The 21-year-old has impressed as the team's reserve driver and had a far better recent junior career than results might suggest.

The Australian is devastatingly quick over one lap, which he showed in F2 with a string of fastest laps and pole positions. He was unlucky not to put together a title charge in the series last season, but showed his worth as the strongest driver over the second half of the campaign.

As part of the Alpine driver academy, he ticks boxes, but he does not have the titles to support his claim, in a world that increasingly expects only champions to graduate to F1.

The risk and the uncertainty is that he could be the next Logan Sargeant. However, Doohan has proven himself to be just as quick as the American, if not quicker, and a more consistent bet. He has also, by all accounts, won many admirers within the French team for his simulator work.

He might not be the heir to Oscar Piastri's Alpine throne the team envisaged, but he represents the best option available now.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The safe pair of hands

More and more Valtteri Bottas appears to be a man on the outside looking in at Stake F1. Nico Hulkenberg will join the team next season and with Carlos Sainz's options dwindling, he may pull the trigger and acquiesce to the Audi move.

Even if he doesn't, Ocon would likely be a more attractive proposition to the German marque. That has left Bottas hunting around the paddock looking for options. We know the 34-year-old has held talks with Alpine, as well as with Williams, but there is nothing yet more concrete to that speculation.

Due to shared history, Williams may be his preference, but that ultimately may not be his call. For Alpine, he is the second-best option on the table. Dependable, experienced, measured.

He is a drastically different option to Ocon, and would most likely work well with Gasly - assuming the Frenchman will be retained. Alpine could do much worse, and if it does not feel Doohan is ready, Bottas might be who the team turns to.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The commercial option

Like Bottas, Zhou Guanyu increasingly looks set to move on from Stake at the end of the current campaign.

The issue for the 24-year-old, however, is that whilst his current team-mate can boast 10 grand prix wins and 67 career podiums, he cannot. 

In fact, he has proven a steady if unspectacular choice over his three seasons in F1. His ceiling is lower than Doohan's and his performance levels are not what Bottas' would be.

However, he does have one thing going for him - he is by far the most commercially viable option available to Alpine. This was non-more-evident than at the Chinese Grand Prix this season.

He is also a known quantity to the French team. As a former member of its driver academy, Zhou only left because Alpine could not offer him a race seat, whilst Alfa-Romeo Sauber could. 

He remains on good terms with the team and if Bottas does join Williams and Alpine opts to play it safe with experience, he may well find himself the beneficiary of that course of events.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The right passport

It is hard to see Victor Martins usurping Doohan in the Alpine driver academy ranks, but more improbable things have happened in F1.

The French driver impressed as he won rookie of the year in F2 last season, but he is enduring a torrid campaign this term. Having been touted for a title charge, Martins languishes third-from-bottom in the drivers' standings.

Like Zhou, however, he does have one key difference working in his favour. He has the right passport. The French team currently has two French drivers, so is clearly open to the idea. But, then again, it is evidently not wedded to it.

Martins also has an FIA F3 title under his belt, which Doohan does not. Although, he is older than the Australian, which provides some context to that championship victory. Regardless of age, he has proven he can fight against the best talents in the feeder system - and win.

Unless he can turn his F2 season around in dramatic fashion, it is unlikely Alpine will call upon him for the race seat next year. Despite that, he is almost certainly on the shortlist. 

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The rank outsider

As part of Alpine's WEC programme, Mick Schumacher is another option it could call upon. He is well thought of in the team, and Bruno Famin has openly sung his praises of late.

Like Martins, he is almost certainly on the shortlist. However, his chance of getting the seat are slim to none.

He struggled in two seasons under difficult circumstances at Haas, and the general consensus is that he does not quite have the pace and consistency to establish himself in F1. In Alpine, he may be entering a more stable environment, but it would be equally as uncompetitive as his two years at Haas.

The 25-year-old would be a popular pick. Perhaps the most popular of the five. But he would ultimately be the wrong pick.

He is an F2 and FIA F3 champion, and showed flashes of pace in his short F1 stint, but it would be hard to suggest he should get the nod over - at the very least - the top three names on the list.

Who do you think should replace Ocon at Alpine? Let us know by leaving a comment or by voting below in the latest RacingNews365 poll.

Also interesting:

In the latest episode of the RacingNews365.com podcast, join Ian Parkes, Sam Coop and Nick Golding as they look ahead to the Canadian Grand Prix, Red Bull's struggles potentially continuing and the news that Esteban Ocon will leave Alpine at the end of 2024.

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