Where will Alonso go in 2008?
Name a team that hasn’t been linked with Fernando Alonso. Spyker? Torro Rosso? Those are probably the only two as the Spaniard’s name has been bandied around the paddock like a cut of cheap meat. The good news for Alonso fans is that this mess should be sorted out shortly. After McLaren threw away Championship at Interlagos, Ron Dennis promised that Alonso’s future would be decided within two weeks, which by my reckoning is this Sunday. After his public falling out with most of Woking, F1-Pitlane takes a look at the some of the likely (and less likely) destinations for Ron Dennis’ least favourite son.
The theory: Alonso will return to his spiritual home and the open arms of team boss Flavio Briatore to once more turn Renault into contenders. Flavio has yet to commit to any driver next year so has full flexibility (for instance, if he needs to send Kovalainen to McLaren to snare Alonso) and he hasn’t exactly quashed recent speculation of Alonso’s impending move. Given that Team Alonso spent more time in the Renault motor home than the McLaren garage in Brazil and ink on the contract appears crusted.
The reality: Things weren’t exactly tickety-boo for Alonso last time round at Renault, what with his accusing the team of bias as the 2006 title went to the wire (sounds familiar doesn’t it) and the fact that the 2007 car was well off the pace. However, Renault turned all resource to the 2008 model some months ago so the car should be more competitive, which will suit Alonso. It appears Alonso needs Renault as much as Renault need Alonso – a win/win.
Odds: Evens – by process of elimination Renault appear clear favourites
The theory: The logic is simple: keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I mean why would Ron want to let one of the three best drivers of his era skedaddle to another team? Exactly, he wouldn’t so he won’t.
The reality: If life were that simple then I’d be sitting on a beach in the Caribbean supping a Pina Colada. Don’t forget that Alonso managed to insert an A380-sized wedge between him and the rest of the team and he still continues to take constant pot shots. That isn’t the sign of a man attempting reconciliation. Given the bad blood between Alonso and the team it would be an astonishing turn of events were Alonso to remain with the Working based outfit. One thing is for sure, the team cannot afford a repeat of the 2007 season – they are £100m worse off, morale has been destroyed and their reputation among pundits and fans has taken a pummelling. Alonso probably doesn’t figure in their plans
Odds: 4/1 – the tabloids in Spain and England will rub their hands with glee it if it happens
The theory: BMW are on the cusp of breaking the Ferrari/McLaren duopoly and a winter push could seem them winning Grand Prix and possibly challenging for the World Championship in 2008. Add in a top rated driver like Fernando Alonso and you have an even more compelling driver/car package. For BMW there is an opportunity to stick the knife deeper into Mercedes’ heart if Alonso were to allow BMW to leapfrog their German enemies.
The reality: BMW have already confirmed Kubica and Heidfeld as their drivers next year and although nothing is guaranteed in motor racing it is unlikely that BMW can find space for Alonso. Heidfeld has the added bonus that he is German, which pleases the big-wigs in Munich, while Kubica has the potential to be a multiple World Champion. Given the way that Alonso managed to destroy McLaren this year it is unlikely BMW want to take on that risk.
Odds: 10/1 – Alonso would love to drive for BMW but the team is less keen on the Spaniard
The theory: Massa’s contract was a last, desperate attempt by Jean Todt to exert control over the team but both he and Massa will be booted out of Maranello and replaced with Ross Brawn, whose first act will be to pair Raikkonen with Alonso. The Tifosi will celebrate, Ferrari will win all 18 races and Lewis’ McLaren will get trounced by the Super Aguris in every race.
The reality: It ain’t going to happen. Why do Ferrari need Alonso when they have Kimi? In the last two years Fernando has rankled both Renault and McLaren with allegations of favouritism. Why would it be any different at Ferrari? There is no way that Alonso can legitimately claim to be the number one driver given his team mate would be reining World Champion, and Alonso isn’t famed for taking a beating from a team mate humbly. Nice idea, but no cigar.
Odds: 50/1 – stranger things have happened (Kimi won the 2007 championship).
The theory: The difference between a good driver and a great one is the ability to transform a team from chumps to champs. That is what Schumacher did with Ferrari and what Alonso could do if he were to jump to Toyota. Resources certainly aren’t lacking: they could adequately compensate Alonso for his troubles and still have spare cash to throw at the car. From Alosno’s perspective it could be perfect with nary a number two in site. Okay, so he goes through a rough patch for a couple of years but the end results could be legacy defining. If Alonso really did give McLaren sixth tenths he’d probably buy Toyota a whole minute
The reality: Alonso is a winner (2007 excepted) and sitting in the Toyota in 2008 would be akin to driving a 1.4 Corolla around the race track. Utter humiliation isn’t out of the question, which Alonso wouldn’t enjoy. I suspect he’d rather than sit out the season than try to sneak in to the quali top-10. However, Toyota has shown a smattering of speed this year, especially when piloted by Jano Trulli and I’d expect Alonso to take the car to a new level.
Odds: 15/1 – the money must be good and this could be the start of the legacy that the Spaniard craves.
The theory: Alonso has also been linked with both Williams and Red Bull. Williams are an improving team as they get grips with integrating the Toyota engine with the rest of the package, while Red Bull showed bursts of speed through out the season but were badly let down by a fragile car. Both teams have vacancies next year and, money willing, would jump at the chance to have Alonso in the hot seat.
The reality: Both Red Bull and Williams are second tier teams with and don’t have access to enough loot to catapult them into the top division any time soon. At least Toyota has the financial muscle to develop the car and that would be a far more likely destination than any other B-teams.
Odds: 100-1 – Alonso wouldn’t stoop that low, would he?
There appears no silver bullet for Alonso in 2008. He has already said that he has an idea for what his 2008 plans are and he also mused that whatever the outcome it would be a difficult year. It is inconceivable that he’d stay with McLaren after what has happened over the last six months and Renault seems the most likely destination. However, the most compelling switch would be to Toyota. If he were to do that then there is an opportunity for Alonso to build a legacy that redefine his sport, eclipses the great Michael Schumacher as the best driver ever and consign 2007 rumpus to a small historical footnote.
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