until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Four consequences of F1's most predictable driver market move

by Josh Suttill
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Lance Stroll signing a multi-year Formula 1 contract extension with Aston Martin is probably the least surprising bit of 2025 driver market news so far.

But it's still a move with consequences - particularly considering the new deal will mean he races alongside Fernando Alonso when Aston Martin partners with Honda for F1's new rules in 2026. They will also benefit from the first Aston F1 car developed fully in the team's new windtunnel.

Here's how it affects the rest of the grid as well as Aston's prospects:

Underperformance isn't a big concern

Aston clearly isn't worried by the tricky patches of form that Stroll's often found himself in.

He trails Alonso's points tally 17-41 so far in 2025 and you can make a strong argument that he cost Aston fourth in the constructors' last year to McLaren - albeit his pre-season injury played its role too.

This year, he has a qualifying deficit of around two tenths to Alonso and has three Q3 appearances to Alonso's six.

It's by no means an intra-team whitewash - especially against a driver of Alonso's merit - and it's a far cry from the miserable run of form Stroll suffered after the summer break last year.

But Aston's still willing to have one driver who contributes half the points his team-mate does, putting the team in a similar camp to Red Bull among the top five teams with one superstar driver (Max Verstappen and Alonso respectively) and a second driver (Sergio Perez and Stroll) who has little hope of becoming the team's spearhead.

Red Bull gave Perez a contract extension in the middle of a dire run of form. Stroll's extension at least comes after a run of races where he's been relatively close (and sometimes ahead) of Alonso in qualifying and the races.

And Red Bull and Aston's line-ups both have weak spots that Ferrari (Charles Leclerc/Lewis Hamilton) and McLaren (Lando Norris/Oscar Piastri) just don't have heading into 2025. It remains to be seen how much that will cost them.

On the evidence of an extremely harmonious Alonso-Stroll partnership, there will at least be no team-dividing fight for supremacy between Aston's drivers.

In fact, Alonso pointed out that he'd never had a team-mate like Stroll over his two decades in F1 and repeated his hope that Stroll would lead the team when he exits.

"It's great news, he knows the team very well, aside from a couple of years in Williams he's spent his career in this environment with the same group of people. He can improve things [by] knowing what Aston was in the past, what it is now, how things have changed for better or worse, he has all this background," Alonso said when asked about Stroll's deal.

"We get along very well so for me personally it's positive news that I can work with someone who is thinking in the same direction and helping the team, not his individual wishes.

"He's a very dedicated and committed person to his job. He's doing a lot of work in the simulator, we've always been in constant talk about the team and things in the car. Even the last two days we've been WhatsApp-ing constantly since Barcelona.

"This kind of relationship I don't remember having with other team-mates.

"Even when I'm not driving I hope Lance takes the lead of this team and I will support him even when I'm off the wheel."

No WEC move for Stroll

Ever since Aston Martin revealed plans to enter two cars in the top class of the World Endurance Championship come 2025, it's been easy to wonder whether that could be an avenue for Stroll to continue racing for Aston, either if the F1 team opted to replace him or Stroll wanted a smaller racing schedule.

That now certainly won't happen for Aston's first two years in the WEC at least.

Much is often made of Stroll's apparent ambivalence towards F1 but he's repeatedly said he loves racing and it's easy to see why having a continued presence in a team that scored eight podiums with team-mate Alonso last year, and has invested heavily to get back to the front, would be appealing.

There are very few racing drivers on earth who would turn down a long-term deal with a factory F1 team when their options to remain in F1 otherwise - particularly with a factory team - would be scant.

Such a long-term commitment should stifle any further talk of Stroll trading his Aston F1 car for an Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar (or a tennis career) for now - especially as Stroll saying the thought of contesting the Le Mans 24 Hours with Aston "hasn't crossed my mind".

Tsunoda's Honda extension closed off

Yuki Tsunoda's hopes of landing a seat in the factory Honda team that Aston Martin will become in 2026 were already slim despite him doing an impressive job as RB's spearhead driver.

Tsunoda's chances of landing the seat purely based on his ties to Honda have long been overblown and realistically nationality was never going to be the key determining factor in deciding the first Aston Martin-Honda driver line-up. Engine partner Honda can offer its recommendation on drivers but it has no power over who actually occupies the seats.

Still, Tsunoda may have had faint hopes of convincing Aston to sign him on merit considering how he's outperformed eight-time grand prix winner Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull's second team.

Red Bull's taken up its option on him for 2025 already and Stroll's extension means one potential 2026 avenue has been firmly closed off. If we're to presume whoever Sauber, Alpine, Haas and Williams sign for their vacancies arrive on multi-year deals it will leave remaining part of the Red Bull family as Tsunoda's best chance of being on the grid in 2026.

No wildcard for Alonso or the market

Stroll's extension means Alonso should remain unchallenged as Aston's spearhead driver for the next two seasons, meaning he won't face the kind of intra-team fight for supremacy that Norris, Leclerc and George Russell are going to face in 2025.

No driver will admit it but that's something of a dream scenario and means if Aston does get it right in 2026 (or before) it will be Alonso who almost certainly benefits the most.

It also means there's no twist for those without a contract for next year.

Had Aston turned its focus to Carlos Sainz for example, surely it could have offered a better case than Audi, Williams and Alpine?

Now Sainz's choice is confirmed as being between those teams. And all the other free agents like Valtteri Bottas still know they'll have to pick from what's left by Sainz - there will be no Lewis Hamilton-to-Ferrari-style twist at Aston Martin at least.

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