Fernando Alonso in pole position to replace Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin, but don’t rule out Daniel Ricciardo

Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement from Formula 1 on Thursday.

Sebastian Vettel has chosen a brilliant time to announce his retirement. Silly season is in full swing and there are plenty of drivers being linked with moves elsewhere.

Two of those drivers are Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo after the four-time world champion confirmed that he will be leaving a vacant seat at Aston Martin, so it is open season in Silverstone.

Alonso returned to the pinnacle of motorsport last season with Alpine having won both of his world titles with the Enstone-based team in 2005 and 2006 while they were under their Renault guise.

The Spaniard, at 40 years of age, has scored points 23 times in 34 races since his return, and the fact that he has not managed any more can largely be put down to the horrible amount of misfortune he had experienced this season.

READ: Sebastian Vettel backtracks on social media decision as he announces retirement from Formula 1

However, Alpine’s car has improved significantly in the last few rounds, and Alonso has found some luck; the French team have got both cars into the points in four of the last five races.

As a result, they have surpassed McLaren in the Constructors’ Standings to take fourth place, and they might have had a bigger lead than four points.

Alonso, on another day, might have taken pole in Melbourne were it not for an oil seal failure, and he put his car on the front row of the grid during a wet qualifying in Canada.

A combination of ill-time Safety Cars and engine problems left him with just two points to show for his efforts from those two races, but every bit of talent that has guided the Spaniard to two titles and 32 race wins is still very much there.

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Alonso is out of contract at the end of the current season, and his team have made no guarantees that they will renew him.

He is now in the unique position of having not one, but two teams that he could potentially be with next year, placing him in an advantageous negotiating position.

What he does not want to do is negotiate against himself; making it public that he wants to join Aston Martin could be a mistake if Lawrence Stroll does not want him, and a lack of loyalty to Alpine could result in the former Ferrari and McLaren driver being shown the door.

Ricciardo has struggled since he joined McLaren at the start of last year, managing just 17 points finishes while team-mate Lando Norris has 29, and the Briton has also out-qualified the 33-year-old 25 times during their tenure together.

Being out-performed is one thing, but the Australian has really struggled to bring home satisfactory results so far in 2022.

READ: Toto Wolff weighs in on Sebastian Vettel’s future as retirement talk continues

But such a drop-off in performance does not happen overnight to an eight-time race winner, so all is not well between him and the car.

Could Aston Martin provide him with a better one? We did not think we would struggle this much at the Woking-based side, so we never can tell, but if he does wish to stay in the pinnacle of motorsport beyond the end of next season, jumping ship now may be his last hope.

While he and the team have made it clear that they intend to see out his deal that expires at the end of next season, it seems almost set in stone that he will depart afterwards.

His replacement is a completely different kettle of fish, although we can at least now say with some certainty that Vettel will not be the driver heading over to fill that gap.

Alpine reserve Oscar Piastri and Haas driver Mick Schumacher cannot be counted out either, but my money is on Fernando Alonso to head to Aston Martin next season.