Christian Horner has affirmed that Red Bull will only let Pierre Gasly go to Alpine if they can secure a solid replacement for the Frenchman.
Gasly had initially been linked with the Alpine seat for this season alongside Fernando Alonso, but some stunning performances from Esteban Ocon last year, including a win in Budapest, earned him a new deal.
Now, a move could be back on the table after the Enstone-based side’s horrible time of it during the silly season over the last couple of months.
First, Fernando Alonso decided to leave after limitations were put on his career by Otmar Szafnauer, who did not want to commit the Spaniard to a long-term deal because to his age.
When the 41-year-old signed with Aston Martin to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel, Alpine thought they had the perfect replacement in the form of reserve driver, Oscar Piastri.
However, due to Alonso’s potentially longer stay, there was a possibility that the Australian might not get a drive with the team until the start of 2025.
Szafnauer wanted to keep the reigning Formula 2 champion around until then anyway so, with the threat looming that Piastri may not be on the grid at all for the next two years, he decided to sign with McLaren.
Alpine are now in search of a new driver, with McLaren’s Daniel Riccardo, whom Piastri is replacing, Haas’ Mick Schumacher, who is out of contract at the end of the season, and Formula 2 driver Jack Doohan all looking like possibilities.
I the last week, the French side’s chances of signing Gasly seem to have dropped slightly, and part of that is die to the fact that AlphaTauri would then need someone to replace Gasly.
The 26-year-old is currently contracted to the end of next season with AlphaTauri and Red Bull, and Dr Helmut Marko does not believe that any of his Formula 2 and Formula 3 juniors are ready.
An alternative is IndyCar driver Colton Herta, who impressed McLaren during his test with them in Portugal earlier in the year.
However, the young American does not have enough points to qualify for a superlicense, so until Red Bull can find a way to get the FIA to grant him one, or until they can find another suitable replacement for Gasly, they will not be letting their race winner go.
“I think Pierre is doing a good job within AlphaTauri, so I don’t think there will be a desire to change if there wasn’t an interesting option available,” Horner told Motorsport.com.
Red Bull have produced talents such as Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen over the years, while Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was initially a Red Bull junior too.
Their programme, along with a potential Herta signing, gives Red Bull a few options.
“I think he’s [Herta] an exciting talent, he’s a younger American guy that’s been a standout talent in the US, so it’ll be very interesting to see how he performs in F1,” added Horner.
“And F1 obviously is growing in popularity in the US market at the moment, and to have a successful US driver could be very interesting. It could be interesting for us, in the longer term.
“I mean, we’ve got contracts with our existing drivers, but AlphaTauri or Toro Rosso, they’ve produced a great stable of drivers for us to draw upon, whether it be Sebastian [Vettel] or Max [Verstappen] or Daniel [Ricciardo] over the years.”
Horner would like the FIA to come to a consensus soon as to whether Herta – despite not having enough points due to IndyCar’s lesser superlicense value than F2 or F3 – will be allowed to enter the pinnacle of motorsport.
“I think that’s an FIA issue, we just need clarity for what is the situation regarding driver points, which hopefully will come sooner rather than later,” he explained.
“Because that plays a key role obviously in the driver merry-go-round.
“Obviously in terms of clarification on points for a driver looking to come into F1, you’ve got to know that you’ve got options, and if that option isn’t there, then the other triggers are not going to come into play.”
Alpine are in conversations with 14 shortlisted drivers about the vacant seat alongside Ocon next year.