By Stefan Kristensen
August 7, 2022

F1 Silly Season Explained

When you think about the term "silly season," it conjures images of reality TV shows, remarkably ridiculous Hollywood celebrities, or news media with nothing new to report, resorting to silly and ridiculous storylines. So what's the dead with the F1 silly season? What is it exactly?

Formula 1 silly seasons are exactly what you might imagine—a period of time where there is uncertainty concerning the following year's grid, along with frivolous and gasping news coverage that goes along with it. 

The silly season in Formula One racing comes around every summer, usually in the later part of the season. It's like a soap opera or reality TV show except the stars are Formula One race car drivers and the stakes involved are very real and consequential. 

2022 Formula One Silly Season 

As is typical with the silly season, something unexpected happened to kick off the 2022 version. Fernando Alonso announced that he will be leaving Apline at the end of the season and he is expected to replace Sebastion Vettel at Aston Martin.

Like a domino effect, this led to a number of other eventualities that are the kinds of things that kickoff what is affectionately known as, the silly season. It's expected that there will be 15 drivers by the start of 2023. 

That "15-driver" understanding is assuming that Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren will figure out their predicaments as well. The thing is, with a gap to fill with Alpine, Daniel Ricciardo may be upended as Alpine goes after Oscar Piastri. 

The very real consequences that come about from moves like these are not in themselves ridiculous. However, they are usually made silly by the kind of breathless reporting that goes on about it. It's certainly not "silly" that Daniel Ricciardo might be without a race car to start the season. 

Regardless of whether some fans like or dislike Ricciardo, the potential for him to be without a car to start 2023 is probably going to negatively affect him, which is something that fans often forget as we make our way through this time of the year. 

History of the "Silly Season"

There are several instances throughout the years that have clearly defined what the "silly season" really is. Back in 1993, there were a number of huge changes in terms of Formula 1 teams. 

Alain Prost returned to the sport unexpectedly with Williams, which kick-started the rest of what turned out to be one of the more notable silly seasons in Formula 1 history. There were also some hurt feelings and retaliations, such as the 1992 champion Nigel Mansell leaving his team because no one would guarantee him "number one" status on the team. 

Senna threatened to leave his team, McLaren, as well, before turning around and signing a contract, but only after a bunch of hoopla over Honda pulling out of the sport leaving the team with a non-competitive engine. Gerhard Berger left McLaren behind and went over to Ferrari.

There were a ton of moves that year, on top of even more position jockeying at the lower levels of Formula 1. Some left their teams altogether and never returned. 

More recently, days after winning the 2016 championship, Nico Rosberg retired unexpectedly, leaving the champions at Mercedes without a driver for one of their cars in the 2017 season. They replaced him with Williams driver, Bottas. Which then left Williams without a driver. Williams had to reach out to newly retired Williams driver Felipe Massa and bring him back to the sport for the 2017 season. This was necessary as most other great drivers were already on contract for the 2017 season.

If you're starting to get the picture of what silly season really means, that's because it consists of a lot of infighting, retirements, moves, self-inflicted narcissism, drivers thinking they should be the number one person on their respective teams, and on  it goes. 

It happens like this every year, though some years are much calmer than others while some years really stand out from the rest. 

How Does Silly Season Officially Begin?

The silly season officially begins when we reach that point during the summer where teams are no longer participating in any kind of racing action and jockeying for position and who is going to race what debates begin.

The silly season kicked off early for 2022, with 8 drivers entering this point of the year without a contract. That's right, they have no contract to drive anything in the upcoming 2023 season. 

Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari are pretty much good to go, however, Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix and is supposed to be replaced with Fernando Alonso. 

Considering the fact that Vettel is a four-time world champion, that's not an easy replacement to make. What makes it even weirder, is that his replacement had all but signed the contract in blood with Alpine and now he's on his way to Aston Martin. 

  • Red Bull has both of its drivers under contract for the 2023 season
  • Ferrari is in the same boat with Red Bull—both drivers are under contract for 2023
  • Mercedes, like Red Bull and Ferrari, has both drivers signed through 2023
  • Alfa Romeo has one driver signed through 2023 with another up in the air right now
  • Alpha Tauri resigned Gasly while Tsunoda is up in the air
  • Williams signed Albon for 2023 but there is nothing but a pool of young drivers to choose from 
  • Aston Martin sends Vettel off to retirement while replacing him with Alonso and keeping Lance Stroll under contract through 2023
  • Haas has one driver under contract and is considering another
  • McLaren has one driver through 2025 while another is signed for 2023 but there are rumors of a fallout

As you can see, things can get pretty crazy depending on what is going on with any of the ten teams throughout the silly season. Mostly, what it boils down to, is a whole lot of drama, hurt feelings, excitement, ridiculous news reports, and indecisive actions. On the plus side, it makes for some good entertainment.

All Things Considered

Silly season is that part of the summer, towards the end, where Formula 1 drivers are not on the track and everyone is fighting for position, drivers, contracts, and dealing with retirements. From a reality TV standpoint, it's pretty entertaining and media coverage certainly doesn't help. Fortunately, it's all a part of the process. 

Written by Stefan Kristensen
I have been passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many technical features, strategic plays, humans and their stories that all together drives this amazing sport to make it as interesting as it is.
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