Alpine’s options for replacing Esteban Ocon, ranked by likelihood

WIth Monday’s news that Alpine and Esteban Ocon were parting ways at the end of the 2024 Formula 1 season, much of the start to Canadian Grand Prix week focused on where Ocon could land for 2025.

Now we can turn to the options for replacing him at Alpine for 2025.

How Alpine handles this decision may speak volumes at how they view their present, and their future. If they think they can truly take the development steps for their 2025 challenger to be more competitive next season, Alpine may look at veteran options in hopes of a big jump up the table, perhaps pairing that veteran with Pierre Gasly in a hope of enjoying more success in 2025.

If they think they could be a year away from such a move, starting with the 2026 regulations, they might pair a younger driver with Gasly in an effort to thread that needle.

So ranking the options to replace Ocon is a bit of a difficult exercise, as the driver transfer market remains very fluid and how Alpine views their prospects for 2025 internally is a bit of a question. Still, given the current landscape, here are the options as we view them, ranked by likelihood.

And we start with a bit of an “outside the box” option.

8. Abbi Pulling

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We are probably a year or two away from this being an option at Alpine.

But that day might be approaching faster than you think.

Pulling’s success this season — she currently leads the F1 Academy Championship and sits fourth in the British F4 Championship standings — is one of the bright spots at Alpine right now. She currently drives under the Alpine banner in F1 Academy, in addition to Rodin Motorsport, and won both races in Miami, giving her three wins out of the four races so far this F1 Academy season.

When I spoke with Pulling back in April, she told me that F3 was her next goal in motorsport.

“Formula Three is is the next jump, whether it’s the British Formula Three championship, FIA Formula Three. Or there’s even kind of a midpoint called Formula Regional. There’s a few different options. It’s just weighing them up, seeing which one is doable,” she explained.

“It’s obviously a big financial commitment. Hopefully my driving on track speaks for itself. Physically, I think I’m ready,” Pulling continued. “I’ve been at kind of a similar level for a few years, so I think, you know, I’m ready for the challenge.”

So making the leap to F1 for next season is likely asking too much, but there may very well come a day where she is indeed an option for such a move.

7. Carlos Sainz Jr.

Could Carlos Sainz Jr. possibly return to Enstone, where he spent a season driving for then-branded Renault back in 2017 on loan from Red Bull?

It is a theoretical possibility, if only an unlikely one.

Since it was announced that Lewis Hamilton would be moving for Ferrari for the 2025 season, making Sainz an impending free agent, he has been linked with a number of potential teams for 2025 and beyond, including Mercedes, Williams, Sauber/Audi, and even a return to Red Bull. And his form has certainly added fuel to those fires, as he currently sits fourth in the Drivers’ Championship with 108 points, despite missing the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as he underwent an appendectomy.

He was the only non-Red Bull driver to win a grand prix last season, and already has one grand prix win under his belt with a victory in Australia.

Sainz certainly has options, and a return to Enstone likely becomes an option only if other doors are closed due to moves made by other drivers. But if Sainz finds himself out of options as the game of driver transfer musical chairs comes to a close, Alpine Team Principal Bruno Famin is reportedly “keen” to bring Sainz back to the team.

This seems unlikely, but still one worth mentioning.

6. Valtteri Bottas

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With Sauber/Audi having signed Nico Hülkenberg for the 2025 season and beyond at least one of their current drivers — Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu — will be out of a spot for next season.

Perhaps even both.

Bottas has been linked with a number of teams near the bottom of the table in recent weeks, including Williams, Haas, and Alpine. According to the driver, he is looking for more of a long-term move. “I need a project with clear goals for the next few years,” Bottas told Racing365. “I’m not interested in a one-year contract just to be in the sport. I want to have something stable with goals that we can pursue together.”

Could Alpine be that destination, and would they offer Bottas such a deal? This is the kind of move that could depend on how the team views their short-term prospects, and how they handle Gasly’s contract. If Alpine truly believes they can be competitive in the short term, they might look to retain Gasly and then add an experienced driver like Bottas to help them contend in 2025.

But given their current development issues with the A524, they might be looking at more of a long-term approach, meaning they could go with a younger option.

5. Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda spent two seasons as Pierre Gasly’s teammate at AlphaTauri.

Could a reunion be possible?

Tsunoda is enjoying perhaps his best season in F1, rebounding from a tense start to the season in the Bahrain Grand Prix to deliver 19 of VCARB’s 25 points through eight race weekends. But that success seems unlikely to be rewarded with a promotion to Red Bull, and while a return to VCARB for 2025 could certainly be in the works, Tsunoda has not hid the fact that he is considering other options for next year.

In a recent Q&A on BBC Sport, F1 analyst Andrew Benson noted that Tsunoda has been speaking with three teams regarding a spot for next season.

One of which is Alpine.

“So, Tsunoda is looking at places such as Williams, Haas and Alpine, and it seems he has a decent chance of landing one of those seats in this summer’s driver musical chairs,” wrote Benson.

Given the straight-up choice between a seat at Alpine and a seat at VCARB, Tsunoda may wish to stay where is given the current competitive imbalance between the two teams. While VCARB currently sits sixth in the Constructors’ Standings with 24 points on the year, Alpine is down in ninth, with just a pair of points in their account.

And between the two cars — VCARB’s RB01 and Alpine’s A524 — one is the better-performing challenger at the moment.

What could complicate things for a return to VCARB is how the organization feels about Liam Lawson. Red Bull Senior Advisor Dr. Helmut Marko has indicated that he would like to see Lawson in F1 full time, which could put Tsunoda’s spot in jeopardy.

Thereby making Alpine more of an option.

Just imagine the content that reunion with Gasly would generate.

4. Liam Lawson

F1 Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna

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Speaking of last season’s super-sub …

When the 2024 F1 season began, it was thought that Liam Lawson could be in line for a spot at Visa Cash App RB F1 Team — where he appeared in five races for AlphaTauri a season ago and scored a ninth-place finish in the Singapore Grand Prix — or even a big move to Red Bull depending on how the chips fell this year.

But with Sergio Pérez looking likely for at least a return to Red Bull for 2025, and VCARB perhaps running things back with Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo for next season, Lawson could look elsewhere if a seat on the grid is available to him.

Could that make a move to Alpine an option?

According to Dr. Helmut Marko, that could be on the table. The Red Bull Senior Advisor let it be known that Lawson’s contract allows him an opportunity to drive elsewhere if a spot with Red Bull is not available. “Of course, with Liam Lawson as reserve driver, we have a strong driver in the team who is contractually entitled to drive for another team if he does not get a cockpit with us in 2025,” said Marko back in April.

“In this regard, it would of course be exciting for us if we could see him in Formula 1 this year to get an even clearer picture.”

In this regard, Lawson might be forced to decide if another year as a reserve in the Red Bull family is the better option than a spot on the grid with Alpine full time. But if Red Bull gives him a spot at VCARB — or if Tsunoda himself decides to move on — the Lawson might find that seat in the Red Bull family he desires.

3. Victor Martins

Currently, French-based Alpine sports a driver pairing in Ocon and Gasly that both hail from France.

Should Alpine have a desire to keep that national lineup intact, they could that by pairing Gasly with their current F2 driver, Victor Martins.

After working his way up through the karting ranks, Martins first joined the Alpine Driver Academy back in 2018, spending two years in the program. He re-joined the Alpine Driver Academy for the 2021 season.

He first caught the attention of the single-seater world in 2017, when he finished second and placed as the top rookie in French Formula 4. He won the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2020, and was the F3 Champion back in 2022. His first year in F2 was 2023, and he finished fifth in that Championship, including a win in the feature race at Silverstone.

However, his 2024 F2 season has gotten off to a rough start, as Martins currently sits 20th in the F2 Championship standings. His best finish came in the F2 Sprint race in Melbourne when he finished seventh ahead of the Australian Grand Prix. That slow start in 2024 might hurt his chances for a full-time seat at Alpine in 2025.

2. Mick Schumacher

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It was not exactly noteworthy when, during the Miami Grand Prix, I met Mick Schumacher while inside the Alpine hospitality space. Schumacher, after all, competes for Alpine in the World Endurance Championship while also serving as a reserve driver for Mercedes.

But could that relationship lead to a return to the F1 grid for Schumacher with Alpine?

Schumacher worked his way through the Formula ranks, including a F2 Championship back in 2020 driving for Prema Racing, when he won a pair of feature races and secured ten podium finishes. That paved the way for a spot on the F1 grid with Haas for 2021, where he finished 19th and failed to score a point.

His second year in F1 saw a little improvement as he scored 12 points, including a careeer-best P6 in the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix.

Haas moved on for 2023, replacing Schumacher with Nico Hülkenberg. And in recent days the team boss that made that decision, Guenther Steiner, has warned Alpine away from hiring Schumacher. Speaking on The Red Flags Podcast Steiner indicated that as a works team Alpine should target the “best driver available,” mentioning Sainz and Tsunoda.

Asked about Schumacher, Steiner issued a warning.

“In the moment not, no,” said Steiner when asked if Alpine should consider Schumacher.

“You need to get the best driver you know is out there. I think people which are showing that they’re very good. And as a works team, you need to do the best you can.”

Steiner’s opinion aside, Schumacher has F1 experience, and has shown versatility as he prepares to drive for Alpine in the WEC. He has won at the F2 level, and has impressed Famin with how quickly he took to endurance racing. “Everything is open for 2025, everyone talks to everyone,” Famin told Sky Germany. “It would be a mistake not to have Mick on the list. I’m very happy with Mick, he’s super fast.

“But in the WEC that’s not the main thing, you have to drive at a consistently high level and have a good team spirit. I’m very impressed with him because he’s got it from the first. He has adapted his attitude to the long-distance races on the day.

“He has a very good relationship with his teammates.”

That last point could be a huge selling point for Famin when considering his 2025 F1 lineup given … let’s just say recent events.

However, his biggest competition for the spot might be a long-time family friend.

1. Jack Doohan

Let’s say at the outset that I have absolutely no say in Alpine’s decision.

But if it were up to me, it would be Jack Doohan’s time in F1.

The Australian driver worked his way up through karting, and his first kart was a gift from Michael Schumacher. Jack Doohan’s father Mick is a legend in the motocross world and longtime friends with Michael, who named his son Mick after his friend. Following his karting days the younger Doohan moved into the single-seater ranks, starting in British F4 where he finished fifth in his first season.

Doohan eventually worked up to the F3 Asian Championship, where he finished second in back-to-back seasons. Eventually an F3 seat was offered, and he finished second in that championship back in 2021. He then spent two full seasons in F2, finishing third back in 2023.

Doohan could have continued in the feeder series, but stepped away to focus on his reserve and testing duties with Alpine, duties he described to me that day in the Alpine hospitality space ahead of the Miami Grand Prix.

As for why he might be the best option in my mind, it comes from his mentality. Over the course of an hour spent with Doohan it became clear to me that he is ready to take that next step with how he spoke about his duties at Alpine — down to the precision and seriousness he takes things like pit stop practices — and he clear vision about what it takes to succeed in racing.

Will Famin and Alpine agree?

That remains to be seen, but following Ocon’s opening-lap crash in the Monaco Grand Prix many observers noted a long discussion between the Alpine boss and Doohan in the paddock. That led to increased speculation about Ocon being benched in favor for Doohan for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

That proved to be off the mark, as Ocon will be back in the A524 this weekend.

So perhaps Famin and Doohan were discussing something else.

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