Fernando Alonso announced yesterday that he would be retiring from F1 after 2018, ending a long and illustrious 17-year career. McLaren have been already looking for a replacement and reports state that they have already made their decision.
According to ESPN reports, Carlos Sainz Jr. is McLaren’s preferred choice to replace their outgoing Spaniard. Subsequently, this will mean that Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly will be promoted to the Red Bull team alongside Max Verstappen.
McLaren CEO, Zak Brown, had earlier made known his admiration for the Spaniard and now that the Alonso situation is much clearer, the way is paved for one Spaniard to replace his senior mate.
The Alonso announcement is the second biggest news to come out of silly season, the term used by fans and pundits to refer to transfer rumours. The first one was obviously Ricciardo’s decision to move to Renault.
Alonso is not the only driver who may be going out of McLaren though. His current teammate, Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, has been underperforming this season which has raised speculation that he may be replaced too.
The takeover of Force India by Lawrence Stroll and other investors also means that Lance Stroll is expected to move to the Silverstone-based team. This may trigger a host of changes in the grid as early as the Belgium Grand Prix.
If that does happen, Esteban Ocon is expected to replace Vandoorne at McLaren, with Kubica expected to fill the vacant Williams seat. The most obvious loser will be Vandoorne, who will consider himself unlucky if he does face the chop at his home race.
The teams to confirm their driver line-up are Mercedes (Hamilton and Bottas), Renault (Hulkenberg and Ricciardo). The eight other teams are yet to confirm both drivers, though some of them like Ferrari have one seat filled.