The future of Fernando Alonso

It is becoming increasingly clear that Fernando Alonso will decide to leave Ferrari at the end of the current Formula 1 season, with the contract between the two parties being terminated, apparently by mutual consent. The logic behind this is that Alonso is not happy with the way things are developing at Maranello, and the Italian team a driver around whom a new team can be built for sustainable long-term success. The model is not very different from the team that Jean Todt put together at Ferrari in the late 1990s when Michael Schumacher and his collaborators arrived in Maranello from Benetton. It makes sense if one has the commitment to go ahead, but it will only work if the driver is young enough to have a team built around him. Some will tell you that letting the sport’s best driver go may not seem entirely logical, but if relationships are strained is there a point in continuing together? Particularly if there is a rebuild process required that will take several years. Building a great team is about having the right resources and the right combination of people and the best cannot always work with the best because ego gets in the way.

There is huge speculation that Alonso will be going to McLaren-Honda, with a massive wedge of money on offer, but I just don’t see that. One might suggest that Alonso is haunted with the prospect of a legacy as being the man who should have won more World Championships than he did, given his spectacular ability. He has won two titles but his career choices have been pretty lacklustre. He can drive the wheels off any bad car, but the skill is to avoid being in the bad cars… His relationship with McLaren was tortuous (at best) back in 2007, and although the Woking team is changing very quickly now (and we will start to see that more publicly in the next three weeks), there is still a huge question mark over whether the new Honda engine will be good enough to win races, or even to be in the same ballpark. No-one doubts that Honda has impressive capabilities for the longer term, but the word is that the new engine is late, heavy and not powerful enough. That may or may not be true, and Honda may be working 24 hours a day trying to fix the problem, as the rumours suggest, but all of this would make McLaren-Honda a worrying course of action for Alonso. He needs success and he needs it quick. His best choice, given that Mercedes Benz does not have availability, is to join the second best team. And the second best team in 2014 is… Infiniti Red Bull Racing. Fernando knows Renault (he won two titles with them) and he also knows that the French engines are the problem that the team has right now. The Red Bull chassis is good. Red Bull will tell you that there’s no availability because Sebastian Vettel and Dan Ricciardo are under contract, but that may not be the case if there is a Ferrari available for a talented youngster with past success and ambitions to prove that he’s not a one-team wonder. For Vettel to truly join the all time greats of F1, he needs to win the title with more than one team. Add to that the fact that his reputation has been damaged this year by the gnashing ambitions of Dan Ricciardo and one can see that the departure of Vettel makes an awful lot of sense… for all concerned. That would open the door for Alonso to slide into a Red Bull.

This has been rumoured on and off for a few weeks now, but there are now one or two signs that perhaps it is not as daft an idea as some will tell you. If all was well, Vettel’s chief mechanic Kenny Handkammer would not have disappeared from the team. I am not a gambling man, but I can see Kenny popping up in a red uniform in a few months from now. If a driver is going off to a new team, he will often want his own people around him. And, guess what? Is it a coincidence that Vettel’s race engineer from his days at Scuderia Toro Rosso, Riccardo Adami, is leaving the Faenza team and the word is that he will soon pop up at Ferrari. Ferrari’s head of design is James Allison, who has not worked with Vettel before, but Sebastian has raced against Allison’s cars and let us not forget that Seb is mates with Kimi Raikkonen, who could have given some very useful useful advice on the state of affairs down Maranello way. The two men used to live close to another in Switzerland and regularly trained together.

Does this sound like a new team forming up in Maranello? On balance I’d go with that… The evidence is beginning to stack up and the whispers are growing, not amongst the media, but rather among the folk who know these things. There are nods and winks that were not there a fortnight ago.

The knock-on effect of this, of course, is that McLaren will almost certainly end up with Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen again next year. And then other dominoes will start to fall. The first team that will be directly affected by all of this will likely to Force India, where Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg will be wanting to hold on to what they have in 2015.

63 thoughts on “The future of Fernando Alonso

  1. Joe,

    what do you mean with “…the Woking team is changing very quickly now (and we will start to see that more publicly in the next three weeks)…”?
    Ron Dennis out? New title sponsor? New technical staff?

    1. I think your third question has the most validity.I think the second is already answered and the first is not due for a while yet.

          1. Motorsplat is reporting that Vettel is leaving Red Bull. You are very good at reading the tea leaves, sir! Enjoy Japan.

            1. Vettel to Ferrari, is something I’ve speculated upon for some weeks now. It makes sense in every way. Vettel has been subject to disparaging remarks from Dr Marko, off and on most of this year, which seemed strange to me. AN moving away from a direct design input, also looked to me like a reason for Seb to be concerned. Then Rocky gets removed too, although I can see him being in scarlet soon as well. When I saw that Kenny Handkammer had gone suddenly, the game was obviously up….the same occurred when Lauda left Ferrari, his chief mech Ermmano Cuoghi, left just prior to the announcement.
              As Joe says, it seems that the new top brass at Modena, have decided that everyone associated with the failures of the last 4-5 years, has to go, and a new ( Todt/Brawn/Schuey ) type of set up has to be created.
              There is much logic in this, if Ferrari let these people do their work unhindered, however it could take 3-4 years before things are right for a new Ferrari WCD/WCC set up to work, no one should be in any doubt that Vettel is more than capable of pulling this off, and he has time and youth on his side for now.
              The only Q’s over Ferrari now are, 1, could Brawn be tempted back, and 2, will they be able to get their engine working at least as good as Renault, for 2015?

    2. What do you think now, could Seb + Kimi pairing have been in Ferrari´s cards already one year ago just because of the reasons you just mentioned? I mean Seb has been linked with Maranello already for a long time. They are good mates playing badminton together (Seb speaks even more Finnish than Kimi does) etc. Being in a different phase of their career they could form a really good partnership and together help Ferrari to the top again. They are not in the same kind of hurry as Alonso who I believe actually started to become a burden for Ferrari in the current situation, even though his performance on the track has been great.

      About a year ago I actually exchanged views about Kimi´s Ferrari contract´s duration with you. I strongly believed (and I still do) that Kimi has 2+1 contract with Ferrari – the third year being HIS option. I think people draw the lines too straight when they announced that Kimi will retire after 2015. What he actually said was that this will probably be his last contract and that he´ll probably quit after that.

      My strong opinion is that his contract will last until 2016 and he will not stop at the end of 2015 unless he wants to. I got this information a year ago directly and personally from the Finnish media source who published Kimi´s Ferrari contract and also it´s details first, 2 days before the international media did and without any “It is becoming increasingly clear…” -wordings but as a fact based on solid information he personally has received from a source close to Kimi. We´ll see in about one year´s time if my information was right or not.

      1. A year ago everyone was speculating whether Kimi and Vettel would end up as teammates…at Red Bull. Now they’re at Ferrari (not official but likely).

        I’m really interested in seeing what Allison comes up with for next year and whether Ferrari ditches its pull rod design which suits no one except Alonso. If next year’s car is anywhere near the front I’d expect Kimi to stay on for an extra year as you say…interesting times ahead

  2. As usual, the best analysis and article available on the topic.

    Joe – have you ever considered being a writer?

  3. Hi Joe, good read.

    Sorry I didnt quite understand the last part of your article. Are you saying Perez and Hulk are in danger of losing their seat in 2015? Or that they are the 1st in line to replace someone in a big team?

    Thanks

          1. As long as Sergio has major sponsorship which the target team needs/ wants he will have a drive. Sergio is very good. One of the best 22 in the world. Though even his madre wouldn’t say he will ever be at the pinnacle of the sport…

  4. Joe, I do not disagree with your analysis BUT it ignores the fact that Ron Dennis has a big fat check book and if others are to be believed a certain Mr. Berger looking to move into one or more of his roles at Woking. That could be the kind of motivation for Ron and the resources to execute an upset here.. Just a thought that the human element should not be ruled out of this equation. Remember when Adrian Newey was going to Jaguar and then he did not? Ron knows how to make deals in a pinch.

      1. Lovely interview of uncle Ron by Tom Clarkson this morning wherein Ron rubbished the bottom feeder who made up the story of his being Burgered.. He came very close to Joe’s description of such beings.

        Also, specifically asked if he was talking to Alonso he said exactly what we expected “We’re talking to everyone”

  5. I have avidly awaited the comments of JS to answer all the rumors relating to this issue. I am glad I waited. What he says all makes sense. Factual reporting, intelligence and inside knowledge prevails.

    1. Same! Was eagerly waiting for Joe’s writeup on this. Well analyzed. Now to see if & how it plays out… Jeez, isn’t this more exciting than the championship for a brief moment. The allure of the future!

  6. I don’t think Vettel will leave RB this year. Late next year maybe, but not after a (not so) bad year. Actually, this is what his career lacked: A year where he had to fight not for the wins, but for surviving, just like it happened with Senna, Prost, Mansell, Piquet, Schumacher, Hakkinen, Kimi, Button… He was the best with the old generation of cars, but he also struggled because of the alternator failures and the tyres, especially at the first half of 2012 and 2013. People quickly forget that.

    Daniel has been better than him, but Seb also had some trouble with some doubtful race strategies and some other reliability probs. Yes, he hasn’t fully adapted to the new generation of cars but to claim his reputation has been damaged… Performances like Barcelona’s, for instance, tell me otherwise…

    On another subject, It looks like Fernando could say something on his future this very weekend. Ferrari really wants to get rid of him and as Marcchione will be in next 10/13th, Fernando doesn’t want to be fired but wants to make people believe he’s the one leaving. Now let’s see who’s going to pay the big money he’s asking for.

    That’s why I don’t see him at RB. They didn’t get a payed driver last year so they promoted DR and spending a fortune in just a single wage would make even less sense, with Daniel still with a shot at the current title, knowing Kvyat is kinda promising, that Max is the ‘new Senna’ (facepalm) and with Carlos Sainz Jr about to win the WSR 3.5… All the money they’d spend hiring Fernando would not go to developing the car.

    And no, Fernando won’t want to be payed much less, sorry. He, like me, is Spanish and we’re pirates, so…

  7. I just don’t know Joe . I mean .. your logic is sound …. and anything as we know all too well of late when it comes to F1 and especially this Silly Season is possible . But Alonso at Red Bull ? Vettel at Ferrari ? Both in my opinion are a recipe for disaster . Ferrari will never meet the demands of the likes of Vettel [ especially with Marchionne’s Madness now at the helm ] .. and the culture of Red Bull certainly does not fit with Alonso’s personality either . McLaren in reality is in desperate need of a top flight driver : what with Button obviously having spent his penny and Magnussen not really showing himself as much of a leader . Riccardo has about as much a chance of surviving at Ferrari as a snowball in a blast furnace … and yes …. Honda’s either playing at a ton of Smoke & Mirrors in order to keep their cards close to their chest or the engine development is in very dire straights . And with Honda these days … either is a possibility

    Then … toss in the multitudes of Smoke & Mirrors / Manipulations / Scripting on the part of the FIA and the F1 leadership in a vain attempt to recoup the millions of fans they’re losing by the minute …. and ….

    … as Silly as this Silly Season is becoming [ as I said back in late spring/early summer it would ] … any attempt by anyone to make even a reasonably accurate prediction on much of anything right now is ground where even the Angels should fear to tread .

    Fact is .. right now in my opinion … the ubiquitous Eight Ball novelty toy has as much a chance as anyone of making an accurate prediction .

    Ouija Board anyone ?

  8. Hi Joe,
    Thanks for talking some sense as its been hard to figure out what is going on with all the sites making stuff up. Out of interest, do you know have Mclaren or RedBull approached Alonso or is it the other way around?

  9. The change of rules has been as much as change of team, this year.

    And who has won many titles with just one team?

    Only saying that that’s a score yet to be taken.

    Stories of a engineer leaving abruptly, with a black eye?

    Just stories, but someone bothered to make them up, if not true.

    I just keep thinking that the lineups could end up so boring, if all the options pan out, as seems to be increasing consensus. Maybe boring for me. Yes, it’s boring, with half the grid irrelevant or available only for money.

  10. Joe great article again and I totally agree with the Vettel part of the story.
    If he goes away from RBR it will be only Ferrari but no way there is any chance
    for Alsonso to join RedBull.RB strategy is very clear and only focused on drivers who gone through RB young driver programme.So clearly also for worst
    case Seb leaving now they simple will switch to Daniel as number one and
    replace Seb with either of the two Torro Rosso drivers.Dany Kvyat I would guess.So Fernando will only end up at McLaren or Lotus ( next year with Mercedes Power )

  11. Other than Merc, are there any really good bets in F1 for Alonso (or any non-Merc driver)?

    Ferrari – Rebuilding, and probably uncompetitive for at least 2015 and maybe a lot longer. Plus a strained relationship between him and team

    Red Bull… Newey starting to step back. Underpowered Renault engine. Track record of him not doing well with young fast teammates. And why would Red Bull build around Alonso rather than the new guy who is beating a 4 time world champion. They’d sell more fizzy drinks and probably lock up 2nd in Constructors without too much bother – but could Alonso really win a WC with them.

    McLaren-Honda – A complete unknown. Rumours the engine is underpowered, but Honda have the F1 pedigree. Team is really struggling this year and I’m not sure how much of that is because they are moving to Honda (so not concentrating so hard on this year), or because they need fundamental rebuilding (like Ferrari). And there’s the rather rocky relationship with Ron Dennis.

    I’d have loved to see what he could have done in a 2014 Williams!

    I really hope Alonso gets at least one more WC. He’s a better driver than Seb and should really have the silverware to match. In my opinion his 2012 campaign should go down as one of the best of the modern (or any) era.

  12. Joe

    I do find it strange that many people say that to be considered a great, Vettel has to win with another team. [He already won races with two teams, though all his championships were with one]

    How many F1 teams did Jim Clarke drive for?
    How many teams did Jackie Stewart win WDC with?
    How many teams did Ayrton Senna win WDC with?
    How many teams did Mika Hakinnen win WDC with?

    It seems that many drivers considered ‘great’ only really won things with one team: how do you reconcile this fact with your statement about Vettel’s need to drive for another team?

    I look forward to your reply!

    Cheers and enjoy the sushi!

    1. I think its more to do with the fact that the Red Bull was so far ahead of the rest of the pack. The others you mentioned never had a car as dominant or in the case of Senna, had an equally strong rival in comparable machinery.

    2. In case your questions were serious…

      Jim Clark only raced at top level for one team. However winning 70% of all the races one season sets him apart form everyone else. This record still stands.

      The Flying Scot won in Matra and Tyrell teams, but also recieved notoriety and acclaim for often winning races by massive time differences. He also changed the way F1 races in terms of safety and for that everyone is grateful.

      Ayrton won WDC only with Macca, but eveyone is aware of his prowess.

      Mika was champion twice with Macca but the guy Micheal said he respected most.

  13. The fact that Hamilton’s final negotiation with Mercedes is on hold, has it anything to do with above or any influence in it? Could that be a part of the equation?

  14. If RB thinks Dan it’s the real deal why stir the pot? Alonso can do magic in the car but out of it……….. How about Alonso/Massa swap? They might be the one with the second best car next year, Massa might not wanna leave but they can use the money and he knows he can beat Kimi and effectively become #1 at Ferrari….

  15. Well, I just don’t understand how Ferrari can let Alonso go and they seem even more crazy to want him to go, but it does seem to be happening. Insanity. I certainly see the logic of the move to Red Bull, and you’re probably correct, as usual, but I still think a “changed” McLaren-Honda team will make a big play for him, so who knows. I think Red Bull is a better car and think he should go there, but if it comes down to money, sports-people often let their ego’s make bad decisions just so they can make the “most” money. I do think Honda will be way behind the learning curve of today’s spec engine and, let’s face it, they weren’t really getting it done when they left either. I think McLaren’s in for a long bad spell with Honda. Agree that Vettel to Ferrari is intriguing and probably a good fresh start for both of them.

    Not sold on Jenson or Magnusson staying at McLaren, either; they seem determined to make driver changes, so I’d think Bottas and Hulkenburg could both be headed to Woking.

  16. You’ve managed to artfully deconstruct my Alonso to McLaren fantasy Joe.
    The truly concerning whisper is the “overweight-underpowered” Honda. Can we say Renault Redux?

    But if Honda will be focusing on reliability in year one, i assume they’ll have the ability to address weight/power in year two? Or will they be frozen into whatever configuration they hit the track with in 2015???

    I also think Alonso may be concerned with fighting another rising talent (Ricciardo) at Red Bull, as he had to do with Hamilton at McLaren. Magnussen will not pose as large a threat as Smiling Dan.

    Nice article, thank you.

    1. Alonso to McLaren is now the most likely route. The Kvyat news was the big surprise. That is a real slap in the face for Alonso. I am pretty sure that his plan was to try to get a Red Bull but it has not worked out. Thus his choice would seem to be McLaren. A wild idea beyond that would be ownership of Lotus with Mercedes engines. Possible but not very likely.

      1. Hey Joe, an even wilder idea would be Alonso injecting cash into Williams in return for equity and the No1 seat…..given the car they made this year, it would be great to watch, and if it happened could truly put Team Willy back on the map…..however, Mac-Honda has looked most likely for Ferdy for some time now, shame really..

  17. Great logical analysis, I hope Honda is better than we all think, but I remember it took Ross Brawn to really tip the scales. Thank Joe, great insight and you do get the grey cells working

  18. Fernando is in a real pickle. Going to Red Bull when Adrian Newey is retiring is a short term solution whereas going to McLaren may be a better medium term one.

    Joe, do you not think that the 2 men have moved on and mature enough to join forces again? I see so much potential in an Alonso/Dennis/Honda team up.

  19. Joe, wouldn’t the history of then upcoming Hamilton and used to the No1 position Alonso in McLaren just repeat in Red Bull with now rising Ricciardo and now older Alonso?

    Ricciardo did not mince words before this season and there is no deference to Vettel, so I would expect the same if Alonso comes in from him. With Alonso approaching the end of his career with only limited number of years to win another title the situation could be a lot more antagonistic.

  20. “For Vettel to truly join the all time greats of F1, he needs to win the title with more than one team”.
    – This seems to be said a lot lately. It was an argument used to persuade Hamilton to Mercedes I understand. I’m not sure I totally agree. I’d have said Clark and Stewart are both regarded as all-time greats who only won for one team. Senna too – though he was a flawed genius. I’m not a fan of Vettel but a 4-time WC deserves respect. I’m sure if he manages to win with another team his stock will rise again, whereas staying where he is and maybe getting beaten by someone who was out-scored by Vergne will definitely see his stock fall.

    Sorry – I’m being pedantic perhaps, but usually it’s best to be in the best team at the right time, and that might not always lend itself to winning for multiple teams….

  21. Fascinating possibilities, Joe. Thanks for the insight. How do you foresee an Alonzo / Ricciardo pairing at Red Bull. Will the team minimalize Daniel in favor of the “big name” Fernando (much the way they did with Mark Weber v. Vettel)?
    If Ferrari is truly looking for a young talent to build a program around, maybe Ricciardo is a better long term answer

  22. Why would Red Bull risk upsetting team harmony and their star driver (Ricciardo) by hiring Fernando? Fernando would likely have all kinds of demands including advantages over his teammate. And if things didn’t go well, we all know what happens next. With Ricciardo, they have a top class driver who seems largely drama free. I don’t see any compelling reason why they would want to hire Fernando.

  23. Going back to the first comment.

    There’s no risk of Ron Dennis losing control of the F1 team because he hasn’t been able to get new sponsors on board, and after losing Hugo Boss to Mercedes?

    Who is the new title sponsor, Honda?

    In which areas do they need new technical staff? They’ve been hiring at a rate already haven’t they?

    On a side note, I’d love to see Bottas in a McLaren. It’s time we had a Flying Finn in a McLaren again.

  24. An interesting analysis. Alonso has shown himself to be a loyal player of the long game. McLaren would embrace him and he fits their talent and marketing needs and allows Young Kev to watch and hone his skills.
    Lewis, in my eyes, is playing a wages/power game. Deferring the decision until the Championiop is wrapped gives him either choice or respect.
    Seb has a bad hand but form, he clearly can mix it with the big guns but will Red Bulk be fully armed.

    Probably the best silly season finale in some time, tune in for the next episode …

  25. If I was Fernando Alonso – which sadly I’m not! – I’d fulfill my obligation with Ferrari for the remaining year of the contract then see what state McLaren and Ferrari and everyone else is in. Right now is not a good time to move unless you’re heading to Mercedes or Red Bull but all of those seats look full for now. Vettel would be mad to leave Red Bull for either Ferrari or McLaren right now as they’re both in transitional phases and nobody knows which will get it together first. McLaren should stick with the certainty of drivers who know the team well while they go through the switch to Honda and then when that’s sorted get aggressive with the drivers. Alonso will have egg all over his face if he switches to McLaren and it turns out they take two more years before they regular winners again meanwhile Ferrari returns to the front next year. Sit and wait my son. Ferrari aren’t that bad and they’re working hard on the turn around. Next year will be a better one for a switch.

  26. Seems mad for both Alonso and Ferrari – Alonso to leave just as James Allison is revving up, and Ferrari to lose a driver who is well known for doing superb things with bad cars, and replacing him with one who is showing just how bad a job he does of driving something less than perfect.

  27. So Alonso is odd-man out with no place to go? I had a strange thought, though it may already be moot-what if Ferrari let Kimi go and kept Alonso? Vettel and Alonso, Hamilton and Rosberg. At least there would be fireworks on and off the track!
    Or is it more likely that Alonso will be without a drive in 2015?

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