With all the recent chatter that occurs during ‘silly season’, added with the whole Oscar Piastri fiasco with Alpine, France’s best young talent in motorsport Théo Pourchaire has never had a better opportunity to join Formula 1.
By Tyler Foster
Théo Pourchaire is about to turn 19-years-old and is currently second in the Formula 2 Championship, just 21 points behind the leader Felipe Drugovich with four rounds still remaining. Pourchaire’s management confirmed to F1 Feeder Series on 10 August that they don’t plan for him to return to F2 for a third season.
“However, nothing is one hundred percent sure, because it depends on lots of things such as results and budget.”
With this revelation, the theories and speculation will ramp up regarding Pourchaire’s chances of making the F1 grid for 2023. However, whether it will or won’t happen, it is a move that would make sense in multiple ways and seems a fit almost too strong to ignore.
The biggest question for Pourchaire will be which team he would have the best chance of joining for next year. With Piastri seemingly heading to McLaren and the possibility of fellow F2 driver Logan Sargeant taking over from Nicholas Latifi, there are two options for the young Frenchman: Alpine or Alfa Romeo.
Pourchaire is a Sauber Academy Driver and the Test Driver for the Alfa Romeo F1 Team. This is the biggest obstruction to him moving to Alpine. It comes down to whether the Alfa/Sauber Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur is happy letting a driver go whom he has been massively supportive of since 2019. Ultimately, if Pourchaire is able to be coaxed away from Sauber and Vasseur, then Alpine would be the perfect destination.
Alfa Romeo’s current F1 driver line-up looks likely to be resumed for 2023. Bottas is penned to a three-year deal; meanwhile Zhou Guanyu’s current contract was only a single-year deal but it would be extremely harsh of Alfa Romeo not to resign the Chinese rookie after his decent showings this season.
Winning ways and flaky contracts
If there is one thing that we have learned this season as fans of motorsport it’s that F1 contracts are fickle. The Piastri/Alpine/McLaren situation is still unresolved and the longer it continues the more of a chance drivers such as Pourchaire have of being in play for a seat. With Alpine losing both Alonso and seemingly Piastri in the space of a week, they are still without a second driver for next year to partner Esteban Ocon.
All things considered, Pourchaire is an excellent candidate for Alpine. Still only 18-years-old, the Frenchman has a strong junior resume. He won the ADAC Formula 4 title against the likes of Dennis Hauger and Arthur Leclerc, while a rookie and just 16-years-old. The following year, he stepped straight into Formula 3 with ART and narrowly lost out by just three points in one of the most memorable recent junior series title-fights with Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant.
Since graduating to Formula 2 in 2020 at just 17, he has gradually improved to the point of fighting for the title in his second season. On the way, Pourchaire had epic moments such as his maiden F2 pole and Feature Race win in Monaco, becoming the youngest winner in Formula 2 history in the act. This year, there have been inconsistencies but he has been strong when it counts, having finished on the podium in six of the ten Feature Races so far this year.
If he does come back and win the Formula 2 title this year then of course this will be his magnum opus, however at this point most fans would agree that it is not needed in order for Pourchaire to be considered worthy of an F1 seat. He has already achieved enough and at such a young age still. Gone are the days of young drivers being ushered away due to ‘inexperience’. Instead, now a driver like Pourchaire is heralded and the next best thing.
The only question for Pourchaire is when he will be able to take part in his first FP1 session. He has been a prime candidate for Alfa Romeo, but due to his competitiveness in F2 this year along with clashing schedules, Vasseur has been unable to grant him the opportunity. If it does come this year, it will most likely be after Monza and before the final F1/F2 round in Abu Dhabi. There may even be a chance for Pourchaire to be utilised by a different team come the end of the season.
All French line-up
For Alpine, there are reasons as to why Pourchaire would fit well. Firstly, his signing would result in an all French driver line-up for the only French team on the F1 grid. With this in mind, they certainly wouldn’t be short of fans or headline articles. Secondly, considering how disastrous Alpine’s silly season has gone so far it certainly would be a saving grace, but more importantly a strong statement from the team to snatch Pourchaire before he even turns 20-years-old. Going from Alonso to Pourchaire may act as a change of mentality, allowing Alpine to fully focus on the future with a younger driver pairing.
While it is clear that Alonso is still capable of challenging towards the top in F1, his aura and ego has been proven to clash with many in the sport, leaving a negative environment in his wake. Having Pourchaire as the rookie could allow Ocon to become the primary focus that many foresaw him being during his days as a Mercedes Junior.
Finally, it seems only a matter time before Théo Pourchaire is amongst the big boys, however it would be as good as it could possibly get for him if he were to join Alpine at the moment. Other than Alfa, no other team would be able to accommodate him and welcome him with a strong backing. Otherwise, he may end up becoming a pawn himself within the chaos of the F1 driver market.
Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Limited
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