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'Silly season' still bubbling: Ocon, Sainz, Zhou, Doohan

'Silly season' still bubbling: Ocon, Sainz, Zhou, Doohan
© Reuters
The break between the Canadian and Spanish Grands Prix hasn't quieted the rampant speculation about the next round of driver shifts.

The break between the Canadian and Spanish Grands Prix hasn't quieted the rampant speculation about the next round of driver shifts.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport suggests Alpine is contemplating dismissing Esteban Ocon before the year concludes. Despite Ocon's confirmed departure post-2024 season, recent races have strained his relations with the team.

"It would be ideal for Jack Doohan to gain some practical race experience before 2025," Tobias Gruner commented.

He notes, however, that Ocon's contract seems robust, with speculation suggesting Alpine might only sever ties if Ocon persistently ignores team directives.

Despite recent turmoil, team boss Bruno Famin clarified in Montreal, "There are no serious disagreements in the team. Esteban has the right to count on full support for the best result, because the best result for Esteban is the possibility of the best assist for the team."

Australian rookie and team reserve, 21-year-old Doohan, is tipped to be Ocon's likely successor. Another contender could be Guanyu Zhou, rumored to be bringing a substantial $35 million sponsorship from his backers, potentially affecting Ocon's future prospects at other teams, with Haas also reportedly in discussions with Zhou's sponsors.

In another major development, sport.de reports that Carlos Sainz, set to leave Ferrari, is indeed likely to join Williams on a four-year deal allowing him an exit after 2026 if the team doesn't meet certain performance benchmarks.

"Toto Wolff originally planned to transfer Kimi Antonelli to its customer team Williams," sport.de states, "but every indication is that Sainz has now signed there. The Spaniard apparently has no interest in Sauber-Audi."

With Sainz seemingly all-but confirmed at Williams, Mercedes' Toto Wolff had seemingly no choice but to pair the young Italian Antonelli, aged 17, with George Russell at the works team next year, as Sport1 explains that Antonelli's contract in the Mercedes junior program includes a guarantee from Wolff for a full F1 seat by 2025.

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Esteban Ocon at the Japanese GP on September 22, 2023
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