Sebastian Vettel linked to 2023 Alpine seat after photograph emerges

Sebastian Vettel kicked off the driver market madness we have seen this season when he announced his retirement.

Fans on social media have amusingly suggested that Sebastian Vettel could head to Alpine after he stopped for a chat with Otmar Szafnauer in the Netherlands.

Vettel worked with Szafnauer last year upon his arrival to the Aston Martin team, and he scored points seven times over the course of the year.

The four-time world champion has spent many years sharing the same paddock as the Romanian-American, who left the British side at the start of 2022.

That was after he had been there since 2009 during the team’s Force India days, and when Vettel was competing in his first campaign with Red Bull.

READ: ‘No idea what he’s talking about’: Formula E champion slams Sebastian Vettel for ‘greenwashing’

The pair go back a long way, and Szafnauer put his arm around the German as they walked down the pit lane in Zandvoort.

This led fans to believe, more in hope than expectation, that the 51-year-old was offering the 53-time race winner a seat next year.

Alpine are in need of a driver after losing both Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri in the last two months.

Piastri won the Formula 2 title last year, and was promoted to his current role as test and reserve driver by Alpine, who were negotiating with Alonso about a new contract going into next season.

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However, they wanted to give him a one-plus-one instead of a straight two-year deal, partly due to his age, and partly because they wanted to get the 21-year-old in the next few years.

Piastri did not have a seat for next season, and Alpine were trying to loan him out next season, although if they gave Alonso another extension next season, the young Aussie would be waiting until 2025 for a drive with the French team.

There was therefore no guarantee for Piastri that he would be on the grid for the nest two seasons, and no guarantee that Alonso would be in the sport beyond the end of next year.

So, they both decided to leave, with Alonso replacing Vettel at Aston Martin next season, while Piastri is set to replace Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren.

READ: Sebastian Vettel ‘not sure’ he’d make it to Formula 1 if he had to start over again

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly is currently the favourite to take the vacant Alpine seat.

Vettel set the eighth fastest lap on Saturday morning, and it looked as though both he and team-mate Lance Stroll both had a shot of making Q3.

The Canadian put in a mighty performance to qualify 10th, but Vettel made a mistake at Turn 13 in Q1, meaning he will start the Dutch Grand Prix down in 19th.