The driver market

Despite the Ferrari team not yet confirming the signing of Sebastian Vettel, or the departure of Fernando Alonso, there has never been any doubt since Vettel put pen to paper three weeks ago, following Alonso’s ill-advised signature of a release document, which wrote off $60 million in future salary. Fernando said “Open Sesame”, expecting that other opportunities would magically appear and duly knocked his nose out of joint by walking into a door… By signing Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull’s Helmut Marko did the F1 teams a big favour, as he gutted the driver market. Instantly, salary demands. Alonso had no real bargaining position with McLaren, his only realistic choice, and that meant that Lewis Hamilton’s ideas of mega-bucks from Mercedes post-2015 took a debt as well. If there’s a cheap Alonso on the market, Hamilton has to become cheap as well. Jenson Button too. Vettel will be the highest paid driver in F1 for the next few years but even he is going to be working the bonuses. The days of mega retainers are gone… The salaries are still massive by everyday standards but its a case of supply and demand. Red Bull went for two cheap young drivers and crashed the exchange.
McLaren and Alonso is not a match made in heaven. They’ve been there before and there are some impressive scars. Some might wonder if taking Alonso is really the best idea because he can get a bit lippy if the car and the engine are not up to scratch, but the fact remains that he is an awesome driver (in the real sense of the word and not the “I mean, like, totally” ersatz version). McLaren will pay the market rate but as the market has collapsed that will be a welcome saving. Jenson is now saying that he’s talking to sports car teams. It would be a shame to lose him in F1, because he is a proper star, but one can argue that after 14 years he’s had a decent run in F1 and now is a good time to follow Mark Webber into cars with lids on them. Life is easier there and the prizes worth having – victory at Le Mans and/or a world title – are there to be plucked, if he ends up with one of the factory teams. Good combinations of success give one a place in history just as much as five World Championships will do. Robert Kubica would have driven a Ferrari had he not smashed himself up in rallying. His original goal was to win one World title in F1 and then do the same in the WRC. Sadly, his passion for rallying and his impatience ruined the plan.
The key question now is whether Fernando will be able to talk himself into a Mercedes in 2016. I doubt it. He is deemed to be the best racer out there but Lewis is no slouch and he would be silly to give up a winning car, by the same token McLaren don’t want a one night stand with Fernando, they want a proper marriage…

181 thoughts on “The driver market

  1. Alonso is his own worst enemy as the saying goes. Can’t see any possible re-marriage with McLaren working for long. So far he’s had his McL messy divorce, crash-gate and Ferrari bust up (and a few other things as well I’m sure). He might be talented but takes up too much management time and energy.

    1. Whenever Ferrari lost it was because of the car. Whenever Ferrari won, it was because Fernando out drove his terrible car. Perhaps Fernando would be more loved at a team which isn’t trying to sell cars! It would certainly be a strange result if he ends up without a drive, but stranger things have happened.

  2. What makes you think all that’s happening is a surprise to Alonso?

    Just because he is not saying or giving any details about his possible deals does not mean he doesn’t have the offers/contracts on the table.

    Alonso is actually still under contract to Ferrari… he can’t really say much about other contracts, can he?

    Neither can Ferrari. Has anyone heard from Ferrari or Vettel himself where he is going? same situation. They can’t disclose much information until everything is signed and sealed; including the contract breaks.

    I think Alonso is going to either Mercedes or Mclaren and he is pretty much in a position to more or less negotiate his terms. In the case of Merc, probably he has to give in a little, in the case of Mclaren, they have to give in. But i doubt the offers are not there………..

      1. Hmm interesting. But it may be he already has somewhere to go, but simply is not yet in a position to announce it; in the same way Ferrari have not been able to say Alonso has signed a release.

        I also think the sudden death of Mr Botin definitely slowed things down, but i’m pretty much 100% certain both Ferrari and Alonso knew he was leaving a long time ago and Alonso has his decent share of offers… also RB knew Vettel was leaving a while ago, they just couldn’t make it public.

      2. Does anyone know what’s happening with the Santander cash past 2014? Is it bolted onto the red car’s diffuser? Or quilted into Fernando’s sideburns? I know Ferrari aren’t short of a bob, but I’m not sure Spanish Santander want to be sponsoring 2 teams, and not Alonso. Hmmm, does Santander own a big German bank too?

  3. Alonso “is deemed to be the best racer”. Many writers say this and yet he was embarrassed by a rookie (Hamilton) in their year together. Button then went on to outpoint Hamilton over three seasons. How does Alonso earn such admiration from the fourth estate and chaps with chequebooks in pit lane?

              1. His career is motor racing, he drove an F1 car as a part of his job, its part of his career.

                Ho-Pin Tung had an F1 career too.

                André Lotterer would smash Alonso to bits also.

                1. At least Will finally managed to close out a championship, after a few years of asking! The wait goes on for Helio…

                  PS. Andre was a Jaguar test driver back in the day, and they went with Webber as the race driver.

        1. Will Power? Oh come on now, he’s not even in the running when it comes to great drivers. Look at the number of brain fade incidents he’s involved with. There isn’t a driver in Indy car that would be worth hiring for an F1 seat.

          1. Same can be said about the drivers currently filling the F1 seats, except they aren’t worth hiring either and are made to pay for the privilege.

            The rookies alone in Indycar this year are a pack of vicious wolves compared to the F1 rookies (- Kvyat) some have won races, others podiums and would eat those boys for a pre Sonoma GP snack.

            Martin Plowman (R)
            Kurt Busch (R)
            Carlos Muñoz (R)
            Jack Hawksworth (R)
            Carlos Huertas (R)
            Sage Karam (R)
            James Davison (R)
            Luca Filippi (R)
            Mikhail Aleshin (R)

      1. Very subjective, Joe.

        There are quite a few in the F1 paddock who would say the same about Hamilton. One of them being Fernando Alonso himself.

        1. Can I suggest that you read the definition of the word “blog”.

          “A Web site that contains online personal reflections”

      2. Can’t argue with this.. Alonso has been at the ultimate pace for so long now. Vettel managed 3 seasons (2011-13), which is a good amount in itself, and we’ll see if he can regain that speed with Ferrari. The best drivers can get about 5 or 6 seasons at ‘ultimate pace’… say Prost, Senna, Schumacher etc.

        Hamilton may join them too, who knows.. and perhaps Raikkonen was similar to Vettel. It’s all there in the statistics, and has been researched thoroughly. And who next to get to ‘fastest in the field’? Ricciardo and Bottas both look like good contenders at the moment.

          1. He’s leaving Ferrari with the same number of wins of Felipe Massa: 11. He won two championships two eras ago and that was it. He wasn’t able to push Ferrari further up to the grid. He certainly outperforms the cars he drives, but in terms of results that really count, he didn’t make much these past years. In a good car would he be the champion? Yes. But putting himself in the good car is an important mark in any champion’s career. See Senna, Prost, Hamilton. Alonso hasn’t been able to do it after leaving Renault and he had many seasons to try and make it right.

      3. On which evidence is that claim established? I doubt he has Schumacher’s devastating speed (qualifying and race) while in his best years nor his team motivating abilities while at Ferrari.

        1. Schumacher wasn’t alone in motivating Ferrari – Ross Brawn (who won a title as a constructor) and Rory Byrne were also involved…

    1. Possibly the great thing about F1 is that the best driver doesn’t always win championships. Otherwise we’d just look at their performances and award stylistic marks like gymnastics or something.

      Is Hamilton faster than Rosberg? Probably. Does Rosberg have more pole positions this year? Yep.

      Is Alonso currently the best all round driver in F1 – almost certainly. Does that mean he’ll retire with his sacred Senna-esque 3 titles? Who knows…

      Fun isn’t it?

    2. I don’t see how it was embarrassing to end up tied in points with an exceptional talent like Hamilton, rookie or not. Especially with the mess McLaren management made of the season.

    3. I think it’s fair to mention that Alonso came from Michelin tyres and had to dial himself into the Bridgestones. Let’s also not forget what a rare and incredible natural talent Hamilton is (and he had a 30k mile headstart in the McLaren?Bridgestone combo)
      I’m not sure, given his relative performance against Rosberg, that Hamilton would beat Alonso in the same vehicle. Would be fascinating to pair them up again to find out.

    4. Yes but Hamilton beat button 2 seasons out of 3. You can try and twist some stats to make them say whatever you want but if you honestly believe that JB is better then Alonso then you’re probably blinded by patriotism.

      Jenson is a very good driver but Alonso is great and would be a step up. However I do think button is better then Magnussen but will probably lose out due to age considerations.

    5. you know when you have to qualify a statement like button out scored hamilton, you know it’s a meaningless stat that only hamilton detractors and button fans cling to in the vain hope it means something. it doesn’t. the F1 points system is awarded for individual seasons, not aggregate. it’s disingenuous at best and insulting to both drivers at worst.

    6. Embarrassed?
      They ended up on equal points, in a season where the team boss was already racing Alonso halfway through the season, and where they hung Alonso out to dry in Hungary. With those pts Alonso would have won the championship.

      It’s been a common misconception that “Hamilton beat Alonso”. He didn’t. Equal points, and the points from Hungary made the difference. And this is with a driver who’s already won a championship and could be very well on his 2nd.

      I would hardly call that embarrassing.

  4. Maybe a gunshot marriage at best.

    All I know it will make for a interesting racing next year a new order of cars and drivers, lets hope the others can close the gap to Merc at least a little to make it more interesting

  5. Joe, has Alonso shot himself in the foot by making unrealistic demands, or by simply trying to get a seat at too many different teams?

    1. Unrealistic demands to stay at Ferrari and blind belief that more than one team would want him if he was on the market

  6. Thank you Joe….insightful as ever. I may have forgotten given the passing of time but would be most interested to read an account of what actually happened at McClaren when Fernando was there….why the relationship with Ron became so badly damaged.

    1. Whatever it was, he basically betrayed Ron Dennis and the team. When Ron Dennis feels he has been betrayed, there is no way back. Which makes it all the more surprising that they are even talking to each other.

          1. There was talk in an Austrian paper of Honda taking Ron’s share, and Alonso working direct for Honda as opposed to McLaren and then bringing Berger in as principle; although the paper’s source was also quoting as saying that it’s in part due to Berger being the only remaining Honda winner (must have forgotten about the last Honda GP winner I guess)

                1. But surely, when both parties have strongly said ‘No, this isn’t happening’, its a bit more than the usual ‘I can’t comment on this matter at the moment’.

                  Yes, in F1, ‘No’ often means ‘Yes’, but its usually a murky grey reply. McLaren and Berger both quickly shot this one down when asked.

        1. But that would signal a cataclysmic change for the team. RD is so deep being a 25% shareholder of the ultimate owner of the Maclaren companies.. I struggle to see the logic of choosing one driver in the twilight years (given he is the overall best out there ‘today’) over one of the 3 owners. There must be something big going on behind the scenes if that was the case. Unless I have got hold of the wrong end of the stick entirely??

        2. Joe, in an interview, I believe with Sky, Ron denied that his position is in jeopardy or that he’s under pressure to raise funds to increase his equity position. Let’s assume his responses were natural defensive posturing. However, I’ve been monitoring the two elite Fleet Street papers for more than one week and neither has addressed the issue. I also have not found any prognosis on Ron in Dr. Google’s extensive data base.

          Thanks to your cryptic comments it is obvious there are disturbances in the environment at McLaren and you definitely know what’s going on there. So would you kindly: (i) tell us, in what way is Ron’s status under threat? (ii) Is MW plotting a comeback? (A few months ago you mention that MW was last seen in Bahrain. Hmm!)

    2. Thank you for that Joe – if I may check my understanding of the McLaren/Alonso fallout – I was under the impression that Alonso was demanding priority status, found out/perhaps involved in the Ferrari spying scandal, went to Dennis and threatened to shop the team, at which point Dennis went straight to the FIA and told them himself…

      I get the impression that Ron Dennis is a man that is very difficult to get on with, and can seriously wind people up the wrong way, but at the same time has an integrity that is to be admired (is this completely wrong?!). My feelings are that even if he is still in charge, if he feels that Alonso has matured and learnt from past mistakes, he will see him back at the team, because at the end of the day he is probably the best driver on the grid and as a team owner, particularly one looking to get back to the front, that’s what you want?

      As for Alonso, he’s a shrewd political operator, but I get the impression that his latest batch of canvassing has not gone to plan…

      1. As for Alonso, he’s a shrewd political operator, but I get the impression that his latest batch of canvassing has not gone to plan…

        I think it also depends on whether the words Alonso is putting out (and his negotiating itself) is being done by him or his management (read: Briatore).

      2. No disrespect meant, because I enjoyed your post (matches my understanding of the situation), but just Why is it that everyone credits Alonso with all this Machiavellian brilliance? The guy obviously couldn’t ‘political catfight’ himself out of a wet paper bag… obviously

        He is a brilliant race car driver (saying top 3 wouldn’t even be controversial), but only -fancies- himself an expert manipulator. Just because he causes upset every where he treads doesn’t equal benefiting from it. evidence of this hitherto unseen Jedi Master skillset is lacking…

        F1 is still a business, and drivers are highly sought out employees… In the real world when you blame your companies products for your inability to close the sale, you get fired. True or not. Maybe F1 is closer to real-life than anyone imagined.

  7. What strikes me is that the 3 drivers on the trot (VET, ALO, HAM) are all pretty darn good. So no matter who ends up where, the teams wouldn’t be too disappointed.

    What are your odds on HAM moving back to his old digs?

    1. No point while Mercedes is still on top. Lewis does have a contract for 15. He can wait until next yr to see if Honda-Mc is good enough.

  8. Very interesting what you say about Jenson, because as much as I can remember he always said he was not interested in sportscar racing.

    But then the last cca two years brought massive changes. Sportscars got a World Championship yet again, they will have four manufacturers next year, Le Mans still is (and always will be) a prize to crave for.

    As of now, it is literally the next best thing to F1 for a driver, even if they are sharing the seat with two other guys.

    WEC is stepping into another “Group C” era, but sadly, all the shortcomings of that period are already showing, but let’s hope people already learnt from that.

    So if Jenson is thinking about going to WEC, he’s definitely doing the right thing, because he has not much future left in F1 anyway. I can see Alonso doing the same thing in a few years, but e.g. I could never imagine Kimi doing that. I would love to see him in a rally car once more, though, or even NASCAR or IndyCar.

      1. I know. Which is a terrible shame, given some of the rubbish formula’s that seem to be heavily promoted.

    1. If Jenson wants to race in the world endurance championships and Le Mans, he’d better hurry up and get a seat – Alonso has said that he has ambitions to compete in this formula as well and waved the starting flag at this years race. Now that Alonso looks to have inadvertently shot himself in the foot concerning his future in F1, it is a possibility that he might have to realise those ambitions sooner than he thought he might have done. If Jenson wants one of the best seats in WEC, he could find himself competing with Alonso for it. Which again, would make said seat cheap.

    2. I was reading about the history of sports car racing recently, and the name B. Ecclestone cropped up in an early 90s rule change, that led to the downfall of Group C, which was becoming a serious rival to F1 – is that a co-incidence, or business foresight on Bernie’s part?

        1. It never got much in the way of TV coverage but it pulled in the paying punters pretty well, not to mention major (ish) manufacturers. The FIA couldn’t resist meddling with it, resulting in TV still not being interested, the fans walking away from the shorter races and the BigCos going home. You don’t have to be too much of a conspiracy loonhouse to wonder why the FIA tried to fix something that wasn’t broken.

          Has anyone seen my tinfoil hat?

    3. As you say, some of the issues of that era are already flaring up – the big one being cost inflation as the manufacturers start piling in.
      The ACO is already having to introduce cost cutting measures, such as imposing restrictions on testing, to try and contain costs, but even so Toyota have already made several complaints that the ACO is not doing enough to contain cost inflation.

      1. Hi Anon. It would appear that until there is a solid cost cap in F1 manufacturers will not be hurrying to return to the sport. Obviously their reticent stem from the ROI realized by Toyota and BMW from the Billions spent during their brief foray into F1.

        Having squandered in excess of two billion in F1 it is understandable that Toyota would now be leading the charge for ACO to implement cost controls measures. Certainly their BoD and Shareholders would not be pleased should senior management ever engage in such wasteful indulgences again.

  9. Is it possible that Ron is stringing Fernando along only to ignore him at the last moment thus exacting revenge for past doings?

  10. Alonso, Totally Radicool driver but a seriously terrible business man.

    Should test himself in IndyCar if he want’s a sniff at another title before he pedals his trike up and down the Champs-Élysées with Prost.

    Simon Pagenaud to Penske.. Now that’s Awesome!

    W. Power, J. P. Montoya, S. Pagenaud and H. Castroneves

    Four car teams in Indycar and Jack Hawksworth.

    but only 12 people watch it anyway.

  11. Riccardo has a lot to answer for here. If he wasn’t so quick, consistently beating a 4xWDC, red bull may have looked for a top line driver to replace Vettel. Turns out they already got one, so only needed a supporting driver to pair with RIC.

    Dennis must be living this, might help recoup some of the $100m if he can save a bit on alonso.

    Also agree on Alonso being awesome. He is a joy to watch.

  12. Ferrari have been quite unlucky with the driver injuries that have happened.

    Massa had an injury mid-2009 which meant they had to let go of Kimi at the end of 2009.
    Kubica had his rallying injury after 2010 while it seemed he would end up with Ferrari.
    Jules Bianchi had his horrendous crash now when he would have been perfect to partner Vettel and ironically, Kimi will get to stay an extra year!

  13. Poor Fernando. The greatest driver never to have won 3 titles (probably), and all because he found himself in the wrong team at the wrong time. Not that that could have been foreseen. Who, when he joined Ferrari, could predict that they’d turn out a succession of duds, which would require him to drive the asses off those cars, and put them further up the grid than anyone else could have ever done? Ferrari have a lot to be grateful for from him. I doubt if anyone else, bar Hamilton, could have got so much out of a poor car. And now they’ve saved 60 million. But now they’ve got a different driver, one who’s ability to put a bad car up at the front really is in question. Vettel is no slouch, but can he wring every last nth out of a mediocre or bad car to put it up there? We haven’t really seen that yet (and please, any Vettel fans out there do not remind me of that win in a bloody Torro Rosso in the wet, I’ve heard it far more times than I want to. Face it – that was a one-off – especially in view of his current form when he is being beaten by a relative newcomer in the same car).

    So drivers are cheap, and Ferrari are now in a position where, unless they turn out a superb car next year, they look like slipping even further down the rankings; Alonso and McLaren are currently dancing round each other, but even if that does result in a marriage, there’s the Honda engine to consider which at this moment in time, is rumoured to be heavy and underpowered. So Alonso could end up joining the wrong team AGAIN. The winners in all this are actually Mercedes. They could get Hamilton cheaply, he can’t look elsewhere because there’s nothing available, and they’ve got a car which at this moment in time is streets ahead of anyone else, apart from intermittent interjections from a Williams car. Toto Wolff must be a very happy man at the moment.

    1. He was in the right team at the right time. He just destroyed it. 07/08 he could have won both years. All he had to do was not get into a fight with the world. “The greatest driver” phooooo! He’s the poison chalice

    2. A lot of ifs for Alonso I would say but we should not talk myths all the time.
      As a RBR and Vettel fan I m for sure amused about some of the comments.
      Sure nobody can argue about Alonso s race day performance but there a lot
      of other factors for a good driver :
      1) Ferrari was most of the time the 3rd best car and not in a donkey
      So maybe some of the engineers at Ferrari are insulted particularly as
      Alonso was never a team-builder
      2) Timing is a skill and Vettel showed more talent then burn the house down
      Alonso
      3) How good Ricciardo is we will see ONLY next year when engineers are not
      getting Vettel s feedback any-longer
      That he is quick nobody doubts
      4) Personally I would be horrible surprised if Alonso turns up in a McLaren in
      2015 and he will go with his worst case option Lotus kicking out Grosjean
      No way he can afford a sabbatical with 33 and totally out of proportions salary expectations

      1. “3) How good Ricciardo is we will see ONLY next year when engineers are not
        getting Vettel s feedback any-longer
        That he is quick nobody doubts”

        If Vettel’s feedback is so important, why is he so slow this year? Deliberately stalling for a move by sandbagging?

    3. On the scale of unluckiness, Jim Clark retired on the last lap while leading the race that would have sealed him a 3rd title, and retired about 20 laps away from a 4th… combine them and he would have ‘Vetteled’ 62-65.

      But as that did happen, John Surtees was able to claim a title in 64.. it would have been ‘Alonso-esque’ if he had not gotten one on his sheer pace (and usually poor car) alone.

  14. Joe, amongst all this and whilst everyone is looking in the opposite direction, there is the question of Kimi Raikkonen. I am surprised by the total lack of any soundings concerning his current future with Ferrari. The marriage has not been a very good one so far. I am surprised that there has been no speculation about him having to make way for someone else. Is there any word about him possibly being ousted from that seat?

    1. Joe, I see Raikkonen has been quoted in an interview with CNN as saying he has an option to extend for a further year at Ferrari (into 2016) which he is considering taking up … do you think he is being serious or just being a little mischievous?

  15. I totally agree with you (well except for the part where Alonso is the best driver -who’s to say what best means).

    Now you go and try to explain that in Spain. Out there Alonso is choosing between staying out one year to go to Merc in 2006 (try and explain the logic of that), going to Mclaren for a year (another very unlikely thing to happen) or going to Lotus (probably there is something there now as all else fails).

    They are as delusional as they have always been about the natural superiority of their driver who is always the best in track even when he finishes ninth (yes, but ahead of Kimi). I fear the sport will loose most of its audience there the day Fernando leaves as they are not true fans of the sport for the most part.

  16. Am I the only one who hopes, once Vettel is confirmed at Ferrari, Ron Dennis announces: “We’re retaining our existing driver line-up – pay back’s a bitch, Fernando!” I doubt he will, he’s too professional, but…! 😀

  17. Seems to me that Vettel has been asked to wait for Alonso to make a decision before Ferrari announce he’s moving there.

    Ron is keeping Alonso hanging as he knows the longer he waits, the better the chance of getting a good deal for him. It’s a Mexican standoff between Alonso and Ron.

    Worst case, McLaren keep Button and Mag for another year – what’s Ron got to lose, in what will be a development year for Honda? Either way, I can’t see a Alonso lasting at McLaren, it will be a marriage of convenience until 2016…

  18. As far as I can tell the story is what is going on at MCLaren. Some or all other shareholders want rid of Ron and if they do you then simply hire the best driver available and that most certainly is Alonso and there would be no issues really. It would also make sense for Honda to keep Button so they go for max experience, surely they could park magnusen somewhere else or dump him altogether in favour of next in line stoffel.

  19. I’m assuming here that the reason Williams is not mentioned above is because it’s not even a possibility? They seem to be on the up, they have Pat Symonds who knows Alonso very well, – what’s missing is the big bucks… am I completely pi***ng in the wind with this one?

  20. Teflon is finished. I don’t see him winning again. Bottas and the other young guys are comming. Teflon has been such a bad apple before, I can never forget the whole spy/crash gate. He’s a cheat and would do anything to win. I won’t miss him. This is his last throw. I hope the dies end up under the sofa for him. I will miss button a bit although not very much if he is replaced by another proper contender. Daniel has been supreme this year, another few like that and it will be a case of “Fernando who?”

  21. Give your previous comments about Vettel not being the best option for selling “fizzy pop” is there any chance that Red Bull hinted to Alonso he’d be welcome as a cheap way to get Vettel off the wage bill and replace with DK?
    Or is that too cynical?

    1. If this is correct then it would appear that poor Alonso got double-teamed and was whacked from both ends. Evidently, the new Sheriffs at Maranello came to the conclusion that Alonso was not a team player, was too disruptive thus he had to go; But, there was one little problem, how to do so without having to absorb a very hefty payout to him. Then it hit them; let’s give Alonso a chance to do himself- in.

      On the Wednesday morning Alonso met with Mattiacci at Maranello, Mark H has the ball. “… And he’d clearly made up his mind about Alonso. He wanted an employee, not someone who made waves that were amplified by the Italian media. So as he sat opposite his driver…he said all the things that were guaranteed to rile…Alonso: we need more commitment from you, you need to understand that you do not run this team; I do. And no I’m not interested increasing your salary to compensate for the absence of title-winning machinery. Alonso exploded. He’d been played…” Kaput!

      1. Poor Alonso you say? If he hadn’t been so disruptive noone would want to get rid of him, and that includes McLaren and Ferrari. He’s the master of his own doing. The last driver that has been fired twice was Prost, if I remember corrently. However Prost took advantage everytime and secured a cockpit better then the one he was fired from. Prost was very smart. But is Alonso also smart? Time will tell.

        1. Alonso over the past eight months, at least, has gotten some very good press. It’s almost a rite of passage of select members of the accredited fraternity to mention that: “Alonso is the best…” “…the most complete…” Etc.; Etc. So he may have come to believe in, and/or taken, his good press too seriously. He also may’ve become too impressed with himself thus deluding himself into believing that he had become indispensable at Ferrari. Someone should’ve reminded him of a quote attributed to Charles de Gaulle: “…Graveyards Are Full of Indispensable Men.”

          In terms of comparative skills and race-crafts, I would argue that LH and Alonso are the two best drivers in F1. The only moderating differentiation between the two stems from the fact that one is faster and the other is more risk- averse.

          There is no doubt about his outstanding racing talents;And being perceived as a prima donna and a royal PITA, but for a team to give up on him or for others to pass up the opportunity to recruit him suggests that he comes with certain serious disqualifying baggage that makes him unappealing; I wonder what might those be?

        1. To start in a GP, 100% discount as long as somebody pays travel and hotel expenses with a nominal driving fee. Drivers are not all there for the money.

          The details of Jenson Button’s deal with Ross Brawn in 2009 have not been disclosed. My guess is that there wasn’t much money until Jenson scored a point…

  22. If Hamilton wins the WDC this year, doesn’t that increase his value to Merc since they won’t have a WDC in Rosberg to fall back on. As the other teams start to close the gap they will need a Hamilton/Alonso to get that extra out of a car that Rosberg can’t, and Toto has already said he wouldn’t want to risk the team dynamic by introducing an unknown entity.

    1. You have to separate driver fan appeal from the team’s desire to win the Constructors’ Championship.

      World Champion Damon Hill was dumped by Williams so he drove for Arrows the next year. In sponsorship deals, this may have been a benefit to Arrows. Drivers matter more to fans than teams.

      Mercedes-Benz surely believe that they will have a good car next year. As a team, they want to win the Constructors’ Championship with the Drivers’ as a bonus. In order to do that, they need two good drivers. When he isn’t being out-psyched by Hamilton in the same car, Nico Rosberg is up to the job.

  23. Joe,
    are 3 car teams still a posibility next year.If they are there is going to be room for everyone in the top teams.

  24. Good article on a fascinating situation.

    I also regret that Alonso´s career has been full of wrong decisions. What is the role of his “manager” Luis García Abad? Alonso has been very loyal to the guy (son-in-law of ex Prime Minister Aznar, the biggest of political cheeses) for many years whilst everything has been mis-managed. Including the recent failure to get the bike team together.

    How much is it down to Alonso and how much to his “people” in your view, Joe?

    Even if it happens, I can see no future in a return to McLaren, was amazed when he signed for them at the end of 2005. If ever two styles were incompatible, McLaren´s mania for control and Alonso´s fierce individual ability to dig into himself would be high on the list. I expect Ron Dennis to jerk Alonso around. He´ll never get a better chance and his current drivers are probably good enough for next year.

    Turning down Red Bull and returning to Renault were terrible decisions. Ferrari should have worked, it has failed him.

    But the interesting thing is, again, how Red Bull have made all the establishment look like idiots. Moving so fast after Vettel resigned was a work of PR genius and straight out of the racer´s handbook. Same thing with their training program, doesn´t it look like a brilliant idea in retrospect? These guys have broken the mould.

  25. One factor that has not risen in Alonso’s case, is his manager, Flávio Briatori. I would be curious how much an influence he had with Fernando’s Ferrari departure? Leave Ferrari for McLaren? As it stands right now, Ferrari is ahead of McLaren in the World Chsmpionship. Additionally, in addition to the current McLaren being a sled, it’s going from what is acknowledged to be the best engine in F1, to a complete unknown, with a year’s less experience in the current formula than the other three. Myself, if I were in Fernando’s diabolical position right now, I’d be knocking on Frank Williams door. But what do I know?

  26. Joe, am I wrong to think it was Ferrari, whose signing of Vettel deliberately undermined Alonso’s bargaining position with McLaren? Luca is pretty good at this game

    1. No. I don’t believe it happened like that. Fernando had a contract. Signing Vettel would have created potential legal problems. The order was Alondo signs release, Vettel signs deal.

  27. I just don’t get this Alonso love fest yes he might be a two time winner but lets have a longer memory. I still beleive Jimmy Clarke was the best hands down so lets just look at F1 as a whole entity not just the last 20 years. John

      1. If the cars of Clark’s era had been as reliable as there are now he’d probably have won in 62, 64 and 67 as well – no-one could realistically have won the title with a BRM H-16 in the car…

  28. It is funny to confront writes like this with what the Spanish media say. They are really convinced that Alonso’s future is in his own hand and that every team is really begging to have him paying what it is needed.

    Alonso is perhaps the most complete driver right now and one of the best in the history, but the amount of idolatrizing he receives from Spain makes more harm than good

  29. Morning All!

    Congratulations are due to all comment writers here for an interesting, measured and rational discussion about the driver market. So refreshing to see that Joe’s followers have not resorted to the partisan diatribes that ‘British Driver A’ is better than ‘Johnny Foreigner Driver B’ – so often seen on other sites. So well done to you all!

    I’m not the first to suggest this as a possible option for Fernando, but consider the facts and discuss. We’re all aware of the reasons he finds himself in a weak position which have reduced his chances of going to Merc, McL, RBR or Williams. If I were advising him, I would be suggesting an equity deal at Lotus for the following reasons:

    He knows the team and many of its key personnel.
    Both of his titles were won in Enstone-built cars.
    Flavio (still involved with his management?) understands the team and is still well connected to attract new sponsors etc.
    Buying equity in the outfit will be cheap, given their current troubles.
    They will have the quickest engine/PU on the grid next year (engine-freeze and Honda aside).
    Owning all or part of the team allows him to mould it around him.
    Success will provide income, value and interest after his retirement from F1.
    Ability to cross-fertilise technical expertise with his bike team.
    He could attract any one of a host of TPs to the team – Brawn, Domenicalli, Whitmarsh.
    His Santander dollars would follow him – I assume.
    Bernie would support such a move as he’s not crazy about Genii, we are told.
    He could easily form a decent Board of Co-investors around him.

    There’s more but I fear I’ll send you to sleep! It comes out of the left field, I know, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. If we’ve learned anything from driver moves of the past it is that we shouldn’t believe all that we’re told in the Paddock, so ignore the fact that he told us he won’t be powered by a Merc engine next year.

    Finally – “Tous a Jules!”

    1. If Fernando Alonso wished to risk all of his wealth in a sports team, this would be an option. It would not be a wise option.

      1. The pont is that he wouldn’t need to invest heavily himself. His involvement in Lotus would attract new investors and sponsors bringing the team back to the $160m + budget they need to re-produce the results of the past.

  30. Alonso to Williams would break a basic tenet of Sir Frank’s career: Williams creates world champions, it does not hire them. It doesn’t even reward champions it has made.

  31. Fernando wrote off $60 million by leaving? He either grossly overestimated his marketability or has something in the works. Do you agree with these choices or feel that he got “snookered” by Vettel’s move?
    There also is the “surprise” that is in the coming. Any ideas what that might be?

      1. That Vettel chap. Alonso must hate him. Not only did he outscore Alonso in the title race 4 : 2 , he also seems to outdo him on the negotiating table. It’s a hard life for Alonso. But then they say everyone is harvesting what he sew, isn’t it?

  32. I have advocated that Alonso has outsmarted himself and will end up sitting out 2015. A friend has said Bernie would not allow him to sit, the sport needs it’s superstars

    Question: Do you think Bernie would play a role, possibly financially, to insure Fernando races next year?

    1. I have been thinking along the same line. Alonso is one of F1’s biggest stars, surely Ecclestone wouldn’t let him sit out without at least trying to get him to race for a competitive team?

      That said, I don’t really see what he can do to change the situation.

      1. Bernie can offer a subsidy to Williams to take Alonso on for one year. Or to Ferrari for that matter. Kimi would go and Ferrari would have a tandem of Alonso/ Vettel for a year. THAT would be extremely unlikely but the thought tantalizes!

  33. It’s yet to be proven if going for the ‘young cheap driver’ will be successful. If the car is good, they have a chance. If the car is average, then look out for Q3 tears.

  34. I’m sticking with my original prediction that Fred will join Lotus as an owner/driver with Flavio as a partner – don’t forget that Lotus is the former Renault squad and is still based in Enstone.

  35. Do you realize that Rosberg is going to earn 55 million dollars in the next three years? I don’t see how Lewis could get less from Mercedes when he will renew his partnership with them. Indeed I think he will have title to ask for a lot more money, supporting his request with the unquestionable supremacy he showed on the track over the teammate.

    1. I don’t think anyone can tell us how much Nico is going to earn, unless you are his lawyer. My understanding is that his earnings are based on a salary plus bonuses for success and thus until the races have happened how do we know what he is going to earn. In any case, the salary of a racing driver is based on market forces just as much as it is based on value. Timing is important. If teams do not have to pay, why should they pay? It is no difference to the price of apples.

      1. The sum I mentioned is the one many journalists referred when Rosberg extended his contract with Mercedes few months ago. Of course you can never totally trust what journalists say but in lack of better sources, and especially considering the general consensus this info had at the time, it seems quite reasonable to me giving it a bit of consideration.

  36. While Alonso reacted badly to Hamilton’s challenge in 2007, I do feel that he gets a disproportionate part of the blame. If you think McLaren is a level playing field maybe you should read Nigel Roebuck’s piece on Montoya.

  37. Joe, how high is the possibility Ron Dennis isn’t in charge anymore by the end of Oct. ’14? And does this influence the Alonso signing?

  38. Joe, as always a good article on the current driver market.

    One thing that people do forget, when they talk about their fanboy drivers and where they want to see them, in which team and car ect….is the sponsors.
    As someone who works for a company that has sponsored F1, one team for 5 years and another for 3 years, we don’t right now, but do have deals in Golf, Tennis, Rugby, Sailing and cycling, just to mention a few. In fact our golf sponsorship, and I don’t play it, is massive. Let’s just say it would keep the two teams at the back of the grid happy & a float for a year.

    To anyone who is a regular reader of Joe’s blog, will know that Sponsors’ are out there just that F1 is not competitive enough with the other main sports, regarding what they get, in simple terms value for money.
    So a very simple question that would be asked, who would you rather have standing (Picture taken) next to your Chairman, Button or Alonso?

    The simple answer is Button. The reason, is that either by association or other reasons, Alonso has been involved in two of the biggest scandals to hit modern F1, that been Spy gate and Crash gate. In the corporate world right now in Japan, there is a lot of inward searching going on about corruptions and scandals. There are a few just below the radar waiting to bubble to the top.
    Your competitors would have an absolute field day with you if Alonso was picture standing next to your Chairman, when pretty much all of corporate Japan is saying they are getting rid of corruption & cheating & scandals, and here is a man who was at the centre of two of the biggest to hit F1 in recent years. Very bad PR move on the part of your company.

    [Sony won’t be coming onboard anytime soon, given the Junk Bond status of their corporate Bonds, and the plain fact that they are actively looking to unload some major parts of the group. So sponsoring anything like F1 is out of the question. ]

    The next question, is Alonso that good, and the simple answer is that yes he is extremely good. He is sort of like Schumacher, in that if the car has a problem, their skill set in the car mean that they can adapt or drive around it. The big difference in the two was Ross Brawn on the pitwall. He knew when Schumacher was driving around a problem, where as with Alonso, they had no Ross Brawn. The second thing is to look at who Alonso had as a team mate and what that person brought to the package. In Felipe Massa, they had someone who’s feed back to the engineers was very valuable, and his work in the simulator was also well regarded. Alonso has benefit from that work load that Massa did at Ferrari, hence why he got such a good sending off, as compared to other drivers over the years at Ferrari.

    Who is better at sorting out a car – Button or Alonso? The answer appears to be Button. His feed back to engineers is well received. As stated above, Alonso skill is such, he just drives around or adapts his driving to make the most of what he has, instead of working with the engineers to try and sort out the car. McLaren, in the last 2 years have had the worst chassis – aero packaging, in their last 20 years, so what makes you think that they will have a great chassis / aero package for 2015? So far they have missed out on a few key people, mostly in the aero side from Red Bull. They need, really to have got these people onboard, about 18 months ago, not now.

    As for the salary demands, well it does appear that Alonso, has again shot himself in the foot. He is rumoured to be on 25M Euros at Ferrari, but asked for 35M Euros to stay on. I doubt Santander will follow him to whichever team he goes to. I have no idea the length of the personal contract he has, but it is pretty well known in certain cicrles that the Bank needs to rein in some expensive marketing costs, to meet certain EU Banking capital laws. Can he (Alonso) justify his costs to the Bank – one thinks not.
    In modern sponsorship, you can have a pretty powerful say in who you would like to see in the car. Remember in certain cases, you need to work with that driver on your global marketing program. In other cases, you don’t care or have very little say in the driver line up, as there part of the package isn’t that important to your marketing strategy.
    All sponsors are looking for value for money, and some sort of return on their “investment”. Another thing to remember if a Sponsor puts in say $10M, then you can be sure that they are spending another $5M, to make that initial sum of money hits their targets in certain global markets.

    So if you have a Diva in the car, and it isn’t working, then the last thing you need to see on a TV screen, him standing there with your logos- (Brand) saying the car is crap and I can’t drive it.
    All your work goes out the window. Funny how people only remember all the negative things about a race, and not really all the positive things that happen…..but that’s life I guess.

    1. I agree with most of what you wrote. However, if Japan is so much into corporate compliace, why has Honda decided to partner with McLaren? They’re, after all, the center of the spygate scandal. So, in your line of thought, the Chairman standing besides Alonso or besides Ron Dennis under a McLaren logo wouldn’t have the same effect? It’s a true question, I’m not challenging all that you wrote, because I think it makes lots of sense.

      1. Pedro,

        As we were talking about Honda and McLaren, then I spoke about Japan, but in most western countries right now, there is a lot internal investigation going on in – within major corporations. No one right now wants to be caught cheating or lying and facing heavy fines from which ever regulator they fall under. This is pretty fast moving right now.
        We hear and read about Bankers leaving as they don’t want to go to jail if caught. We see in the retail market – UK – Tesco, having to fire people over a massive black hole in their accounts.
        The major drug companies are all under some sort of investigation, and in the UK, we have this stupid, not well thought out Anti-Bribery Law. That alone is stopping a few companies from sponsoring sports or other events.

        In Japan, right now, there corporate world is in a bit of turmoil. Button is a more acceptable face than Alonso. As for who is the better driver and therefore should get the seat at McLaren, well that is down to the team and all the other sponsors who pay the bills.
        There appears to be a lot more talk in the western media about Alonso been linked and already signing some sort of deal with Honda, yet not much out of Japan, according to our office there when I asked.
        The other thing, is do we believe what Eric Boullier is saying. This is the same person, who on 2 occasions told the world press, including TV cameras that Kimi Raikkonen had been paid, when in fact as Kimi stated he hadn’t been paid a single penny of his salary. He also stated for the cameras, that he has seen the money come in and out of the Bank account. Well we all fell off our chairs laughing. If you work in the financial markets then you know if your company deals in Bonds how they work. So as I said, his creditability with me or in my eyes is still at zero, given that he was in the same position at Enstone that he has now at McLaren.

        One other thing, Honda is making the engine parts of the power train, but McLaren are making all the electrical parts of the system. Honda also had some success with Williams’ in the past, so they could have gone there – to partner up with a team. But McLaren have a much better grip on this sort of component, where as the Williams team are good at batteries and road car engineering.

        At McLaren right now there is this internal power struggle going on, and as Joe has said, we won’t really know until the New Year as who has won or lost, and that could in fact be when the driver line up is announced at McLaren. I would then think that Button would have walked away. A shame as he is well liked in Japan and at Honda. They do like the way he handled himself, when they pulled out, and then went on to win in really a Honda car, without their power unit. He made himself a lot of friends in very high places within Japan. (His girlfriend also helps him a bit)

  39. Joe,

    Concerning Alonso and his ego, I guess we shall see if he will set it aside the and accept a much lower salary, as you astutely postulate given what Red Bull has done. If he signs at a much lower rate, then for Alonso it will truly be all about the passion 🙂

  40. Maybe Alonso has had a Mclaren plan for months. Mclaren without a title sponsor, waiting for Santander and Alonso for 2015. Sounds good for business to me, Ron getting the team back together after whitmarshes reign.

  41. Surely Red Bull would have been better to have decided what they were doing, notified Kyvat secretly, but then waited on announcing it till as late as possible. That way they could have made their rivals pay through the nose, money they might otherwise spend elsewhere. And they’d have left those teams with a greater period of uncertainty, possibly even halting Alonso going to McLaren, which would also be good for Red Bull.

  42. Who on earth signs away $60M?
    There will be a point in life when Alonso will be known as the driver who made most mistakes out of the races…
    Kudos for him anyway, for doing whatever he feels right, even though it makes me dizzy just to think about it.

  43. It was only a few weeks ago that there was talk of Honda buying out Alonso’s Ferrari contract because they were so desperate to get him. Now it looks like he’ll have to take what is available at McLaren.

  44. Could this be the first sign of F1 hitting its plateau? Suddenly having the best, proven, race hardened drivers isn’t as important.

    How many truly world class, non-pay drivers does F1 have now? maybe 10 out of 22?

    Does history show this has always been the case? If not, it seems like a significant negative health indicator to me.

  45. Ok, so now we’re in 2016 and Alonso is in a position to bid for Hamilton’s place at Mercedes. By then, Hamilton can be a triple WDC so why would Mercedes prefer to trade him for Alonso? In addition to that, Hamilton could reach the status of vetoing Alonso in his team as they have a past and it’s not pretty. On don’t see why Alonso would consider this to be a safe strategy. I guess it’s McLaren or bust to him and that’s why Ron Dennis is probably laughing si hard now.

  46. On another note, are we all sure that Vettel goes to Ferrari next year? Couldn’t he have signed with McLaren instead? If Ron wants to emulate 88 all over again, he will go with an experienced champion (Button) and one young guy with lots of potential (Vettel). Obviously, it’s not the exact situation as, in 88, Senna had won a few GPs and, in 2014, Vettel has 4 WDC under his belt. Maybe it’s just me but, apart from Lauda and Horner, no one else mentioned Vettel in Ferrari.

  47. Alonso should go to Marussia for free. He could have some fun, bring attention to the efforts at the back of the grid, and drive the F’n wheels off next years MR04!

  48. I would take Raikkonen over Alonso any day. Provided Kimi likes the handling of the car, he is an unmatched talent. I think Ferrari know this, especially Allison.

  49. I am hearing that Lewis is going to McLaren in 2015, Alonso to Mercedes in 2015, Nico Hulkenberg to Ferrari in 2015

      1. Scrap the rumours about Nico Hulkenberg going to Ferrari next year because Force India have retained him for next year despite rob Smedly saying that they won’t announce their 2015 drivers before Ferrari. Lewis put his contract negotiations on hold and at the same time Alonso announced he was leaving Ferrari. F1 Today

    1. Well William your source is wide of the mark on Hulkenburg, he’s just resigned for Force India, so I suspect your other info is equally suspect!

  50. Any thoughts on Jenson’s future?

    Would be a big shame to see him leave after being stuck in such bad cars the last two seasons.

  51. Something Martin Brundle wrote in The Sunday Times a few years ago always come back to me in these circumstances.

    “The best drivers tend to gravitate towards the best cars”

    I accept that Martin had probably not fully considered the prowess of Will Power, however I still think that Fernando will end up returning to McLaren.

    His pay packet can be covered by bonus pay for points greater than his team mate, as this reflects the added value he brings to any team.

  52. I’ve thought for some months, that Alonso would be in a Mac again, I don’t think RD will give one as long as Alonso can win him races and titles. Honda will pay the bills, and Ferdy has had things wrapped up sometime back, but has kept a solid lid on it. Vettel to Ferrari wasn’t a huge surprise as he has said over the last couple of years, that he’d like to drive a Ferrari as would all drivers at some point in their career’s. Button to WEC ?? Why not, there isn’t a good seat around unless Massa is ejected from Team Willy.

  53. Alonso does not seem to be well advised. Between Flava Flav Briatore and that country bumpkin manager of his, he has missed a lot of trains.
    I also think he reads too much Spanish press.
    Alonso should commit to Uncle Ron and win 3 WDC before he retires.

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