How the 2022 season played out: F1i's Top 10 Moments

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Alpine F1 Team celebrates his birthday with Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Alpine F1 Team, Team Principal, and a cake. 29.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Practice

Summer break starts with frenzied game of musical chairs

Just before the Hungarian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel made the announcement that he was retiring from Formula 1 at the end of the season. It wasn't a huge surprise - Aston Martin hadn't been able to give Vettel the kind of car he had been used to at Red Bull and Ferrari, and there was a sense that the 35-year-old's passion for the sport was on the wane. It was time to move on and make way for a younger man.

The 'younger man' turned out to be 41-year-old Fernando Alonso. The news broke one day after the Hungary race and definitely was a surprise - especially to Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer, who had been talking with Alonso just the day before and been assured that contract renewal negotiations were going well. Caught on the hop, Alpine quickly announced that Alonso's vacant race seat would go to the team's reserve driver, Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri, whom they'd wanted to promote into a full-time role for some time. Drama resolved, everything sorted.

Except that just hours after the press release went out, Piastri fired back on social media declaring that there was no contact in place between himself and Alpine, and that he definitely wouldn't be racing for the French squad next season. It was an extraordinary public rebuke from a driver to a team. It emerged that Piastri has already signed for McLaren, and when Alpine took the case to the Contract Recognition Board they were told in no uncertain terms that they had messed up the contracts and allowed Piastri to slip out of their hands.

Alpine took a deep breath and eventually set their sights on an all-Gaul driver line-up with Pierre Gasly alongside Esteban Ocon. First they had to secure Gasly's release from AlphaTauri which was complicated by a lack of superlicence points for US open wheel star Colton Herta, who was team principal Franz Tost's preferred option (or maybe Helmut Marko's - it's hard to tell sometimes). Meanwhile the ripples also washed over McLaren, who now had one two many drivers signed for 2023 meaning they had to negotiate to buy out the final year of Daniel Ricciardo's contact after another dismal year for the Aussie at Woking. He'll now return to Red Bull in a third driver capacity, hoping for a shot at redemption in 2024.