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Six driver market repercussions of Alonso's 2025 F1 choice

8 min read

Fernando Alonso was Mercedes’ plan B for 2025, but he was always Aston Martin’s plan A - and now he’s decided to repay that faith by halting his own push for a Red Bull seat and sticking with Aston Martin through 2025, 2026 and - in some capacity - well beyond.

Given Alonso’s status as one of F1’s truly elite drivers, what he’s decided to do will have significant consequences for the rest of the grid.

Here are six important ways that Alonso’s crucial decision will impact F1’s 2025 driver market.


We were led to believe Alonso was very keen on a Red Bull switch for 2025, and indeed was pushing hard to make that happen.

It’s now clear Red Bull wasn’t in a position to offer him what he was looking for. His value to the team was mainly as a short-term Max Verstappen replacement if the champion decided to leave, rather than to replace Sergio Perez as Verstappen’s team-mate. Team principal Christian Horner would’ve been highly wary of the potential for internal friction developing had that happened.

Alonso himself felt there was “zero chance” of Verstappen walking away from Red Bull, but presumably felt the chance of replacing Perez was remotely possible.

That Perez is now doing a much better and more consistent job for Red Bull, and earning praise again from Helmut Marko and Horner, suggests Perez’s position is stronger than it has been for some time.

The fact Alonso has now given up the chase indicates Red Bull made clear to him that door was closing.

Clearly Red Bull feels it doesn’t really need Alonso - either as an insurance policy against Verstappen quitting the team, or against any external threat emerging in the near-term in the constructors’ championship.

That’s still a risky position for Red Bull to adopt - because it’s still possible it might need one or even two new drivers for 2025, and the best available alternative has now taken himself off the market.


With Alonso out of the equation, now it’s his fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz who becomes the leading free agent.

A multiple race winner, proven all-round frontrunner with several years’ experience at Ferrari - he should be top of the list for anyone with a vacancy.

There are three obvious options for Sainz with Aston Martin off the table, and one leftfield choice.

The best move would be to hold out for Red Bull in the hope Perez is dropped and neither Daniel Ricciardo nor Yuki Tsunoda are deemed suitable to partner Verstappen.

Sainz has to be the number one pick for Red Bull if it decides, as Horner suggested after the Australian Grand Prix, to take a dip outside its own pool.

A straight swap with Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes also can’t be completely ruled out at this stage.

Mercedes would be the logical best bet for Sainz if a Red Bull seat isn’t up for grabs.

But it doesn’t currently look as though Sainz has done more than simply replace Alonso as Mercedes’ plan B. So why push to join a team that doesn’t appear to really want to sign you?

The safest choice - in terms of a guaranteed seat - for Sainz is Audi’s soon-to-be works team Sauber.

That would clearly be a backwards short-term step given Sauber is a midfield struggler that cannot do a proper pitstop at the moment - but the Audi angle offers huge potential and would likely come with a lucrative, long-term contract.

Audi really wants Sainz too, and is understood to have made a firm offer already. That logically makes Sainz Audi's number-one contender, so presumably he can also bank on a bit of time before that offer expires to properly weigh up whether Red Bull or Mercedes really are viable options for 2025.

The left-field move is to take a punt on Williams, which Sainz is believed to have at least checked out.

But this feels like a real last resort to stay on the grid rather than a credible next-step after leaving Ferrari.


Within days of Hamilton’s Ferrari move being announced, The Race’s Mark Hughes learned that Mercedes had immediately decided a firm ‘plan A’ and ‘plan B’ for how to replace its departing champion.

Alonso was plan B. Sainz now seems to be, but he'll understandably want to be more than that given his recent track record.

Which means plan A - Mercedes promoting its protege Kimi Antonelli straight from Formula 2 into Hamilton’s old seat aged just 18 - is now clearly the most likely plan.

Toto Wolff’s reference at the Japanese Grand Prix a week ago to “some of the really good guys” being “about to sign for some of the other teams” now seems like a hint that Alonso was about to come off the table for Mercedes.

But Wolff didn’t seem too fussed about that, such is his faith in everything Mercedes has seen from Antonelli so far.

Mercedes may not be ready to officially commit to Antonelli until his F2 rookie season and test programme in older F1 machinery have progressed, but its willingness to let the likes of Alonso - and potentially Sainz too - sign up elsewhere suggests Mercedes is pretty confident where that evaluation process is going and doesn’t feel the need to snap up a safer short-term bet.

And when Alonso referenced talks with other teams being “light” and Aston Martin being the team that seemed most committed to him, it might well have been a reference to Mercedes only really viewing him as a temporary seat filler before Antonelli was ready.

Alonso probably felt he could’ve proved to Mercedes once in its car that it needn’t worry about hurrying Antonelli into F1, or seen off George Russell and ensured that he, Alonso, and not Russell, would be the best bet for Antonelli’s longer term team-mate.

But the insinuation Alonso would just be a seat-warmer for Oscar Piastri when Alpine was offering only a short-term contract in 2022 was key to Alonso abruptly leaving for Aston Martin in the first place. So he likely won’t have appreciated being viewed as only a ‘plan B’ by Mercedes.

So what does Mercedes do if Antonelli doesn’t live up to the hype over the rest of 2024?

Potentially stick with him anyway because of a confidence he’ll develop into F1’s next big thing, and because it doesn’t need him to be a title contender or even a race-winner in 2025.

This isn’t like throwing a teenaged rookie into Mercedes in its dominant prime.

Wolff admits Mercedes is now in a “rebuild” phase in which it could give “a young driver … an opportunity with less pressure than fighting for victories immediately”.

Antonelli can afford for 2025 to be a learning season. And it says a lot about Mercedes’ fall that he could do that in its factory team rather than being farmed out to the likes of Williams. 


Truthfully, the idea of Tsunoda waltzing into Aston Martin as the replacement for Alonso remained very fanciful even before Alonso had made this commitment.

Were Alonso to walk away, Aston Martin would've presumably needed a proven lead driver to replace him. Tsunoda, three and a bit years into an uneven-so-far F1 career, is clearly not that yet.

The faith and continued support from his long-time backer Honda and Honda being Aston Martin’s new works partner for 2026 doesn't feel right now like it would be enough to change that.

But Tsunoda's stock in F1 circles has clearly been trending the right way ever since Pierre Gasly vacated the AlphaTauri/RB next to him, with both Nyck de Vries and Ricciardo - both tipped to either match the Japanese or even dominate him - outperformed.

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko wrote in his Speedweek.com column after the Japanese Grand Prix that Tsunoda's weekend was "flawless" and "at the level of Max, Alonso and co.".

It seems unlikely to sway Red Bull in terms of promoting Tsunoda to the main team, but the continuation of such a trajectory would've made him an increasingly credible option for a team a rung or two below - a team like Aston Martin.

But Alonso's extension has changed the timeline. In theory, it could still fit the 23-year-old Tsunoda in quite nicely eventually - but he does have to spend the intervening years somewhere.


At least Tsunoda is 23 - whereas the likes of Esteban Ocon (27), Alex Albon (28) and Pierre Gasly (28) probably have to forget about a team that would've been an immediate upgrade on their current situations, yet a realistic one at the same time.

All three could make a stellar case that, with Alonso staying, signing one of them alongside him would enhance Aston Martin's line-up.

But the other seat - Lance Stroll's seat - is simply not part of the driver market.

The Aston Martin door being closed and Sainz still being up for grabs for other competitive teams makes it more likely that at least one of Ocon and Gasly is still going to be stuck at Alpine for now, and that Albon will have to continue to wait it out at Williams for the bigger opportunity his post-Red Bull form deserves.


Fernando Alonso

When Aston Martin swooped for Alonso to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel for 2023, it meant the big-money, big-ambitions project retained a superstar lead driver.

With Alonso in the team, Aston Martin reached new heights. He has spearheaded everything Aston wants to achieve and been very, very committed to the cause on-track and off it.

Alonso seemed to get that this was a great last roll of the dice for him, a massive project to be part of that was a no-lose situation.

If it resulted in rapid success, he could extend his F1 career in a more competitive car. If it didn’t, he could say he played his part in laying the foundations for Aston Martin to achieve more in the future.

As time has passed, it has become clear that Alonso’s providing more for Aston Martin than the team is for him - purely in terms of their respective places in the pecking order. Basically, Alonso’s more of a top driver than Aston Martin is a top team.

So there was a real risk, if Alonso walked away, that Aston Martin could be left without a truly A-list driver to spearhead the project.

With everything that’s been lined up - the new factory, the new windtunnel, the new recruits, the works Honda engine deal - Aston Martin’s putting together all it needs in theory to become a bona fide F1 frontrunner, especially when the new rules kick in for 2026.

It needs an elite driver to front all of that, and with Alonso’s renewal that’s exactly what Aston is getting.

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