The silly season has already been in full swing for a while now, and with deals being signed more than the usual 6 months in advance, it is perfectly possible that Fernando Alonso has signed his future away to Ferrari already. The latest installment of this rumour comes from Grandprix.com, who today posted that they believe the Spaniard has put pen to paper for Maranello. However, given the driver current line-up and their contracts, combined with the remarks made by Ferrari’s president about having two world champions in the team, is it a little too far fetched?
For Fernando, it would seem that there are only three teams really desirable to him at the moment, and one of those options is only included because the Spaniard had little choice about it at the time. It is also known that the 2005 and 2006 world champion would like to drive for the Scuderia, and recently had to refute suggestions that he has a get-out clause written into his contract. A suggestion, I believe, to be true based on common sense. But let’s look at Alonso’s options for next year and 2010.
I believe it is fair to say that Fernando only re-signed to Team Reggie because he had few other options. Alonso was clearly unhappy at the end of his McLaren tenure, and although the team would have grown immeasurably with Alonso on-song, they instead went with Hamilton in Alonso’s eyes and the relationship soured. With Ferrari all booked up at the time, and BMW not seemingly in the frame, Renault was the best Alonso had. But just because it was the best choice at the time it doesn’t make it the best decision.
Renault went into a slump from 2007 onwards, and the return to form will take time. This is something Alonso is enduring right now, the Spaniard hasn’t even visited the podium yet this year. However, Formula One teams go through peaks and troughs all the time. Ferrari and McLaren have both gone for more than decade without a championship trophy in the past, and as Renault proved last year, all it takes is a less-than-par car and less-than-par drivers who require high-levels of motivation to knock the team out of kilter.
Sticking with Renault could see Alonso in a team that regains its strength and follows the 2003-2005 growth pattern. However, it is a risk and it may take another year or two (or three or four) before the form returns. Although Fernando is still young, he is very much a competitive man and like most of his rivals, wants to be in the best car at the right time. Unfortunately, Renault may not be that team at this time.
I spoke about the possibility of Alonso switching to BMW earlier in the month, and I believe it would be a wise move for him. BMW are on the up and show signs of continuing their progress. For sure they will almost certainly build a dog at some point, the law of averages applying to every team. But given BMW’s commitment to Formula One, along with their resources and skilled workforce should prove to be very alluring.
However, BMW already have two drivers they respect and have proven to be a great partnership for Hinwil. Nick Heidfeld is a loyal and intelligent driver, and despite his current slump, the German is still fighting strong and providing the team with a good benchmark. In the other car is a driver with rising stock – Robert Kubica – who must be fighting off other teams with a stick at the moment. The Polish driver has also been linked to Ferrari, but BMW seem pretty keen on keeping Kubica in BMW overalls. Therefore, it would appear the only thing really blocking Alonso’s route to Munich is the current driver line-up. And as we are about to find out, the same may apply at Maranello as well.
Surely the Scuderia are at the very top of Alonso’s wishlist, the team having dominated the early 00’s and continuing to produce championship winning cars to compliment the championship winning team. Resources, budget, heritage and money all make Ferrari one of the most desirable stables on the grid, and Alonso would be a fool if he didn’t even ask for a meeting. And that is exactly what Grandprix.com believe has happened. However, the possible deal flies in the face of Luca di Montezemolo, the president recently saying that it would be crazy to have Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in the same team. At the time, the press were speaking of Felipe Massa being the driver who gets the boot, his initial form not being that of the usual Ferrari-calibre.
But, what if it wasn’t Massa who left? Kimi Raikkonen has often spoken of not wanting to race all his life. In fact, Alonso has said much the same in the past, but Raikkonen’s apparent attitude towards racing leads me to think that he may retire once he has a second of third title. Given the fact that Ferrari tend to be a long-term team – they keep their drivers for multiple seasons to ensure stability – Raikkonen may not be the best driver for them if Alonso became available.
It is all speculation, but Alonso seems to draw the most questions out of people. His deal with McLaren was done way in advance and leaked before he started his [at the time] final year for Renault. Raikkonen too signed for Ferrari long before the announcement was made. This leads to questions being asked, and the media are forever extending their thoughts to cope with this advance deals being struck. Alonso may have signed, he may not. But one thing is for certain: we won’t know for a while yet…
Image © Charles Coates/LAT.