Zhou signing a new one-year deal to lock-out Alfa Romeo’s driver line-up was expected, but it has closed another door in the 2023 F1 driver market.
F1’s dramatic summer of change leaves just three vacancies remaining at Alpine, Haas and Williams respectively, though a further seat could yet become available at AlphaTauri.
Several drivers face uncertain futures as agents, while others are looking for a route back into the world championship.
With competition for the limited places hotting up, we’ve summarised who is in the running for the final spare seats for F1 2023.
Pierre Gasly is Alpine’s stand-out first-choice but his signing relies on Red Bull finding a suitable replacement at AlphaTauri. Red Bull are willing to release Gasly from his contract early, but only if there is an adequate candidate to fill his seat, otherwise the Frenchman will stay put alongside Yuki Tsunoda, who has been retained for 2023.
Alternative options for Alpine include Nyck de Vries, their F2 junior Jack Doohan or Antonio Giovinazzi, all of whom took part in a private three-day test for the Anglo-French outfit last week at the Hungaroring.
AlphaTauri (if Gasly leaves)
If Gasly’s move to Alpine is given the green light by Red Bull, that means the energy drinks firm will have found a replacement to drive for their sister team AlphaTauri.
Red Bull initially wanted to sign IndyCar race-winner Colton Herta but ended their pursuit after the American was denied a superlicence by F1’s governing body the FIA.
Red Bull have since turned their attention to Williams’ super Monza stand-in de Vries. The Formula E and F2 champion has held talks with Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, who has been evaluating candidates outside Red Bull’s own driver pool.
With de Vries’ options widening, it is looking increasingly likely that the 27-year-old will earn a full-time drive on the 2023 grid.
Haas have yet to decide who will partner Kevin Magnussen next year, with Schumacher’s future beyond the end of 2023 in doubt after a difficult sophomore F1 season.
Former Renault racer and current Aston Martin reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg has emerged as the favourite to replace Schumacher at Haas, while Giovinazzi is also considered a candidate should the team not elect to retain Schumacher for a third season.
Ferrari reserve Giovinazzi has outlined his desire to return to F1 and is hoping his Friday practice outings with Haas can provide him with a route back onto the grid in 2023, after losing his Alfa Romeo seat at the end of last season.
Steiner has confirmed his interest in outgoing McLaren driver Ricciardo but the Australian is thought to be leaning towards taking a sabbatical next year in the hope of being first in line if a top seat were to become available in 2024.
Following his starring display to score points on his shock F1 debut as a last-minute stand-in for the unwell Albon at Monza, de Vries is at the top of Williams’ wish-list to replace Latifi.
Williams are said to have already put an offer on the table for de Vries but face competition for the Dutchman, who is also on Alpine and AlphaTauri’s radar for 2023.
Should de Vries go elsewhere, Williams could promote their F2 race-winner Logan Sargeant, or take fellow F2 frontrunner Doohan on loan from Alpine.
Schumacher could also be on the market along with Ricciardo and therefore cannot be ruled out, though a move for either appears unlikely at this stage.