Alfa Romeo set to ignore rising star Oscar Piastri for a place in Formula 1 next season
“If the money comes first, all avenues remain open.”
It was one of the most memorable replicas of Francis Ford’s character in William Shakespeare’s 1602 comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The meaning of this phrase is simple: money can give you opportunities and a better life.
With money, the world is yours.
It’s also a good quote to describe why Alfa Romeo strongly envisions an inconsistent Chinese driver to compete in Formula 1 next season, instead of an Australian driver who has conquered everything before him in his young career.
Alfa Romeo grabbed the headlines ahead of the Italian Grand Prix when they announced that nine-time race winner Valtteri Bottas, fresh from his Mercedes ax, would join the team.
F1’s rumor mill has been overworked as to who will team up with Bottas in 2022.
The seat is currently held by the Italian Antonio Giovinazzi who has struggled to assert himself in the premier category of motorsport.
The seat is the only one that remains undecided for the 2022 season and the team are looking to Formula 2 for a potential new driver.
So if they leave Giovinazzi, who is the best Formula 2 driver ready to take the plunge?
At the top of the Formula 2 standings is Australian Oscar Piastri, a top prospect who has been almost perfect over the past three years.
In 2019, he won the Formula Renault Eurocup in his second season only.
This earned him a promotion to Formula 3 in 2020 – the third tier of open wheel racing – where he won the championship in his first season with the Prema team.
Prema rewarded the young Australian by selecting him to drive this season for their Formula 2 team.
Piastri leads the championship by 15 points after a sensational victory in the main race at Monza last Sunday – the curtain-raiser of Daniel Ricciardo’s return to the top of Formula 1.
He is a member of the Alpine Young Drivers Program (Renault) and his pace and consistency are unmatched among young drivers.
Essentially, if Alfa Romeo were looking for a new driver who would give them the best opportunity to score points most often, they would now have a press release welcoming the Australian to the squad.
But, “if the money comes first, all avenues remain open”.
Formula 1 is an expensive sport and the financial burden is greater for the teams at the bottom of the grid.
Alfa Romeo is just the title sponsor of the team, which belongs to the Sauber Motorsport group.
Sauber has a very proud heritage in Formula 1, but it is one of the smallest teams in the sport.
This means that funding and sponsorship are much more important to them than teams like Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.
In the middle of the last decade, there was speculation that Sauber would have to shut down due to cost and with new regulations in 2022 meaning teams are building new cars, the team would ideally like a driver who can bring them success. ‘money.
Come in, Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou.
He is second, behind Piastri, in the Formula 2 championship and would be the man who takes the final seat in Formula 1 next year.
Zhou is a talented driver who joined the Ferrari junior program as a child, before being let go and picked up by Alpine.
He has spent the last three years in Formula 2 and has been good without being great.
He was the top ranked rookie of the 2019 season – however, he drove for a strong Formula 2 team, UNI-Virtuosi, which was superior to all the other rookies.
Despite being widely regarded as one of the title contenders in 2020, he finished sixth in the championship.
Now in 2021, he sits second in the table with inconsistent performances hurting him in his quest for the title.
In short, Zhou is good but his CV is not as impressive as Piastri’s.
However, Zhou’s appeal comes from the financial support he has – and he has serious money to push his Formula 1 aspirations.
The Chinese pilot is supported by SECA, a Chinese sports marketing and management company.
SECA has a foothold in motorsport by possessing the power of Formula E DS Techeetah, whose drivers have won three of the last four championships.
They also have a few large investors, including China Media Capital Holdings (CMC).
CMC is a huge business conglomerate with a lot of money.
They also have a great interest in the sport, owning around 12% of City Football Group, the owners of Manchester City.
They have money to invest and they will invest in any team that signs the first Chinese Formula 1 driver.
Spanish publication Marca reported earlier this month that a team that chose Zhou as their driver could expect up to 30 million euros ($ 48 million) from their sponsors.
This is the kind of money small Formula 1 teams would go out of their way for.
Formula 1 is not fair. It’s a breathtaking sport where money is king.
There are other options for Alfa Romeo including retaining Giovinazzi, but the consensus in the paddock is that they are looking for a driver to take the plunge.
Alfa Romeo would definitely need a windfall of cash and huge sums of money are supporting Zhou which leaves Piastri in the cold.
Piastri has the talent and the credentials to be a Formula 1 driver.
And based on his races this year, there is no other young driver who deserves a chance in Formula 1 more than the Australian.
But Piastri brings coins to a silver fight, and the unfair world of Formula One means Alfa Romeo looks set to overlook a rising star.