Alpine is believed to have agreed terms with Red Bull for the release of Pierre Gasly from his AlphaTauri contract for the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Gasly has been lined up by Alpine as it needed to find a replacement for first Fernando Alonso and subsequently Oscar Piastri.
The Race understands Alpine will pay Red Bull a fee for Gasly to be released from his AlphaTauri contract, which runs to the end of 2023.
It effectively confirms that Alpine has no plans to run Piastri next season and that any decision by F1’s Contract Recognitions Board will only have a financial significance.
The CRB is yet to rule on whether Alpine or McLaren has a valid 2023 contract with Piastri but the outcome is expected to be the same either way.
If the CRB rules in McLaren’s favour it will be a straightforward case of Piastri being confirmed but if Alpine’s contract is valid, then McLaren will need to agree a compensation deal to sign the 2021 Formula 2 champion.
Either way, Piastri is believed to be McLaren-bound, leaving Alpine with a seat to fill and with compensation requirements of its own to factor in if it wanted to sign Gasly from Red Bull.
“For next year, currently, I’m contracted for AlphaTauri,” said Gasly when asked about his future on Thursday at the Dutch Grand Prix.
“Everybody is aware of my contract situation. For now, nothing has changed.”
A video emerged last week of Gasly talking to Charles Leclerc and George Russell on their way to the drivers’ parade at the Belgian Grand Prix, in which Gasly appears to reference “working on the final details of the contract”.
This caused significant speculation on social media but Gasly laughed it off on Thursday at Zandvoort, where he said it was nothing to do with racing and made a vague reference to Russell talking about “marriage or a wedding thing”.
Gasly has been a Red Bull junior since 2014 and his impending move to Alpine means he is following in the footsteps of Carlos Sainz, who was released from what was then Toro Rosso to take up a seat with what was then Renault towards the end of the 2017 season.
That move from Sainz helped Gasly make his F1 debut and he got a full-time drive with Toro Rosso the following season, then an unexpected promotion to Red Bull Racing for 2019 as Daniel Ricciardo left the team.
Gasly struggled at Red Bull though and halfway through the season he was sent back to Toro Rosso, where he rediscovered his form and scored a maiden podium in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix.
A strong 2020 season with the team rebranded as AlphaTauri included a shock win at the Italian Grand Prix, and Gasly was arguably even better in 2021 – a year in which he earned another podium finish.
The 2022 season has been more difficult though, as AlphaTauri has struggled at the beginning of the new technical regulations.
“I’m with AlphaTauri, giving my best to AlphaTauri,” said Gasly. “They gave me my first seat in Formula 1, they gave me my first victory.
“I don’t feel like commenting anything, and as long as I’ll drive for this team, I will always give my 110%.”
The plan to replace Gasly is unclear although it was reported last week that Red Bull is keen on signing Colton Herta.
This suggested a potential link to a takeover of the AlphaTauri entry by Herta’s IndyCar team Andretti, although this is now believed to be wide of the mark.
The Andretti camp is desperate for an F1 entry and would be an obvious interested party if Red Bull want to sell its second team, as has been rumoured but not confirmed.
Placing Herta at AlphaTauri would make little sense competitively given it requires letting someone of Gasly’s calibre go in order to take an unproven driver from the United States but Herta would allow the Red Bull brands to tap into the US market with an American driver.
One hurdle to clear would be ensuring Herta can secure a superlicence, which he is currently ineligible for because of the FIA’s unfavourable weighting against IndyCar in the licensing points system.