Here's what we know so far.
Last week Sebastian Vettel announced that he would be retiring from F1 after a stellar career that saw him winning four world championships with Red Bull. Vettel likely had no idea his retirement from F1 would result in the silliest silly season (the term commonly used when the time comes to renegotiate contracts) in recent history.
A day after Vettel announced his retirement, Fernando Alonso shocked the world by revealing that he would fill the gap Vettel is leaving at Aston Martin. Alpine had to secure a driver for its open seat with Alonso leaving. That seat naturally went to Oscar Piastri, who has been working behind the scenes at Alpine for several years.
Alpine made the announcement, and that's where all of us expected it to end.
After all, who wouldn't want a seat in the best midfield car there is? After 13 amazing races, Alpine finally claimed McLaren's fourth place in the constructors' championship.
As it turns out, Alpine forgot to tell Piastri. In a shock move, Piastri let the world know that he had no knowledge of his supposed new contract with Alpine and that he would not be driving for them next year. Cue load of memes and conspiracy theories hitting social media...
If you were wondering while we waited so long to report on this topic, that's the reason. We had our suspicions, however. A young driver doesn't say no to a seat unless he knows he already has something better in the bag. A move to Williams or Haas was out of the question, if only because the Alpine seat was there for the taking. Had Piastri scored a seat at a top-tier team?
The top six seats (Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull) are all locked down for next year. The only move that made sense was Alpine's biggest rival, McLaren. There have been rumors surrounding Daniel Ricciardo's departure from the team, as he hasn't performed anywhere near what was expected. He was responsible for McLaren's first win in ages, however. The British brand even built a limited-edition 720S in honor of that victory.
What's interesting is the timing. It seems Alpine did not know about Alonso's departure and only found out via the media. Alonso timed it perfectly, waiting until right after Piastri's contract with Alpine expired. Former F1 ace Mark Webber manages Piastri. Webber has close ties to McLaren and Alonso.
It will likely never be confirmed unless Alonso or Piastri write a tell-all biography one day, but this seems to have been the ultimate sneak move on a manufacturer.
Several sources now state that Ricciardo will not race for McLaren in 2023. According to sources close to the situation, he turned down a move to McLaren's Formula E team. He wants to keep racing in the pinnacle of motorsport, as per his tweet before the recent French Grand Prix.
The latest rumor suggests that Ricciardo will be bought out of his contract by McLaren. In short, he will be paid not to race. His contract with McLaren is rumored to be worth $17 million annually, and he has one year left. That's the basic salary, not including any bonuses for winning or sponsorship contracts.
Getting rid of Danny Ric will cost McLaren big bucks and impact their budget in 2023. Lando Norris is already one of the best-paid drivers on the grid, and with McLaren slowly slipping down in the constructor's championship, it will have less money to spend next year.
This will all be avoided if Ricciardo finds another seat, which seems likely. There's still an open spot at Alpine, and Ricciardo was most successful at the French team after leaving Red Bull. A spot will likely open up at Williams, as it only has one confirmed driver for 2023. Mick Schumacher's time at Haas is reportedly ending, but Ferrari has a lot of sway over the American team. If that spot does open up, it will likely go to a Ferrari reserve driver.
The most likely move is to Alpine, where Ricciardo will have one final chance to prove to everyone that he has what it takes. With Alpine currently performing better than McLaren, it will also allow the Australian driver to show up his former bosses and young teammate.
The next few weeks are going to be interesting. Only F1 can provide this much drama during the summer break.