Oscar Piastri ‘escape clause’ would open hh, Fernando Alonso’s dig after Ferrari move

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The race is on to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, with Fernando Alonso stating he is “attractive” to other Formula One teams and both Aussie drivers in consideration for the plum seat on the grid.

Alonso is keeping his options open but denied any contact with Mercedes after Lewis Hamilton announced he was quitting to drive for Ferrari in 2025.

Hamilton’s departure at the end of this season will create a vacancy alongside George Russell, while Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team are also due to have a seat available, with Sergio Perez’s contract expiring at the end of the season.

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The 42-year-old’s two-season deal with Aston Martin is up for renewal in 2025, but the Spaniard believes he is capable of competing in F1 until he is 50.

Speaking ahead of Aston Martin’s season launch, Alonso, who won back-to-back world championships with Renault in 2004 and 2005, said: “I am aware of my situation, which is very unique.

“There are only three world champions on the grid and I am the only one available for 2025, so I am in a good position.

“On a move to Mercedes, there has been nothing at all. I know the driver market has started earlier this year, but this will not affect me in terms of preparing for the season.

“If I want to keep racing beyond this year, the first and only talk at the beginning will be Aston Martin. I trust this project and that will be my first priority.

“But if we cannot reach an agreement I know that I am attractive to other teams. I will not stay in Formula One just to have fun. I am not that kind of person and not that kind of driver. Let’s see what the options are.”

Commenting on Hamilton’s move to Ferrari, Alonso, who drove for the Italian team between 2010 and 2014, added: “It was a surprise, I will not lie, not because of the change itself but from the outside it seemed like he was very linked to Mercedes and very loyal to Mercedes.

“Ferrari is a special team but it is more special when you win. Maybe Lewis can bring that extra fight for the championship because the car is there.”

Alonso also took a subtle dig at Hamilton’s claim it had always been a lifelong dream of his to drive for Ferrari.

“It was not his childhood dream 12 months ago,” Alonso said.

Aussie floated as Hamilton replacement

Meanwhile, former driver Sky Sports commentator Karun Chandhok believes Australian Oscar Piastri could replace Hamilton despite being contracted with McLaren until the end of 2026.

Chandhok speculated on the Sky Sports F1 show Piastri’s manager Mark Webber would have negotiated an exit clause in his McLaren contract to allow for such a move, which is albeit unlikely.

“We know Oscar has a contract with McLaren, but Mark Webber has negotiated plenty of F1 contracts in the past and I’m sure there will be an escape clause somewhere, as we’ve seen with Lewis,” Chandhok said.

“Oscar’s debut season was brilliant – he had weaknesses in his race pace no doubt about it, but he has another season to build on that.

Chandhok added: “I think Oscar and George (Russell) as a line-up at Mercedes is a good one.”

Piastri joked on social media after Hamilton’s move to Ferrari was confirmed: “Just been for a run. Have I missed anything?”

Piastri’s F1 career began in some controversy after he was forced to publicly deny Alpine’s claim that he would debut for the French outfit after driving for the Alpine academy in his junior career.

There are several candidates to replace Hamilton, with Mercedes considering drivers including Alonso, Ferrari castaway Carlos Sainz, midfield drivers Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon and 17-year-old academy prodigy

Daniel Ricciardo has also been floated as an option to drive at Mercedes, but he said he is “not looking too far ahead”.

He said: “Part of me is also happy not to be involved in all this crazy stuff, especially this early in the season. So if the silly season happens without me, that’s fine with me at this point!”

The 2024 F1 season begins at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday March 2.

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