How do the new Alonso-Ferrari rumours affect the 2009 F1 driver market?

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Fernando Alonso’s prospects of joining Ferrari in the near future appeared to have been killed off earlier this year when Luca di Montezemolo said in public that he did not want Alonso to partner Kimi Raikkonen in the future.

But the rumours re-surfaced over the Monaco Grand Prix weekend with sources claiming Alonso had signed for Ferrari for 2010. Alonso has already hinted he might leave Renault for Ferrari.

Should we believe the rumours? Will Raikkonen quit in 2009? And how might this change the 2009 driver line-up?

Why Alonso will join Ferrari in 2010

Alonso is a two-times champion and indisputably one of F1’s top three drivers. Renault are clearly not a top tier team at the moment – and it’s questionable whether Flavio Briatore’s focus lies squarely with them now that he’s discovered Queens’ Park Rangers football club.

Why Alonso won’t join Ferrari in 2010

Alonso never managed to reproduce at McLaren the kind of harmonic relationship he enjoys at Renault – so why jeopardise that a second time? Renault may not be in race-winning form right now but there have been clear signs of progress from the team already this year.

What if he has signed for 2010?

Luca di Montezemolo has said in the past that Ferrari would not have Alonso and Raikkonen as team mates. That would seem to indicate Raikkonen has indicated he does not wish to extend his contract beyond 2009.

It would also suggest that Felipe Massa’s contract until 2010 is safe, as Ferrari would surely not want to run the risk of changing both drivers. Massa has bounced back from a shaky start to the season with a career-best four consecutive podiums.

BMW are chasing Robert Kubica’s name on a new contract with sources suggesting the deal has already been done. Although Nick Heidfeld has struggled to match his team mate it would be a surprise to see the marketable German driver leave the team, particularly as neither of BMW’s test drivers (Marko Asmer and Christian Klien) look likely to be promoted in his place.

They are probably the only other team likely to be both interested in signing Alonso and capable of attracting him. So if he’s no longer on the market, then I would expect them to keep the same line-up.

Whatever happens with Ferrari Alonso will surely still be a Renault driver next year. But who will be his team mate? Nelson Piquet Jnr needs a revolution in form to justify his place in Formula 1. The impressive Swiss-French GP2 driver Romain Grosjean must be favourite to take his place, unless Renault continue their questionable strategy of placing graduate drivers with their test team for a year, which did little for Piquet or Heikki Kovalainen.

Test driver Lucas di Grassi’s indifferent form in GP2 last year has not marked him out as a future F1 driver. Their other test driver Sakon Yamamoto has impressed more people in F1 since he started DJing at parties. But a possible outside bet for the team could be Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, if an accommodation could be made with Briatore, who Bourdais has fallen out with once before.

Bourdais’ team mate Sebastian Vettel is tipped to replace David Coulthard at Red Bull, Coulthard finally heading into retirement and Toro Rosso heading into oblivion if a buyer is not found. If one is, look for iSport GP2 driver Bruno Senna in the hunt for a seat here.

McLaren, Honda and Williams will probably keep the same line-up. However Kazuki Nakajima has scored points in three of six races so far this year and Toyota may want to pinch their protege back from Williams.

The Grove team’s test driver Nico H???lkenbeg does not look ready for F1 yet, so perhaps Williams would get Timo Glock in return in a straight swap? As their engine suppliers Toyota have a fair amount of leverage in these discussions.

Adrian Sutil will need to repeat his Monaco form to justify his continued inclusion at Force India where owner Vijay Mallya may bring in Karun Chandhok, if he chooses to ignore the Indian’s dismal form in GP2 this year.

2009 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “How do the new Alonso-Ferrari rumours affect the 2009 F1 driver market?”

  1. Don’t forget last autumn, Red Bull’s owner, said they couldn’t sign Alonso because the driver had agreements with others teams, and he only looked for a short contract.

    I think there is nothing already signed, and he only have a verbal agreement, which in F1 is nothing.

    Anyway, I’d like to watch Alonso driving a BMW.

  2. Jonesracing82
    27th May 2008, 8:45

    be good to see how Kubica does v Alonso!
    Bruno Senna would b good as well, hope he maintaines his GP2 form from this year so far!

  3. Jonesracing82
    27th May 2008, 8:46

    having said that, i dont see them getting rid of Heidfeld yet

  4. To be fair, Alonso hasn’t been on top form this year, but we all know what he’s capable of. However, I think BMW would fear a clash between him and Kubica, as both are capable of leading the team. Theissen would probably not want to risk losing Kubica for Alonso.
    Judging from what I’ve seen of the F3 Euroseries, Hulkenburg may well be a better bet for Williams than Glock in the long-term, and I also think that Mika Maki, a Red Bull-backed F3 driver, would warrant a test-driver role next year, even if he would need a year in GP2 before graduating to the F1 grid.

  5. I still think that Alonso is kicking his heels at Renault, back with Flavio and people who respect him until the time comes for Kimi to leave Ferrari. I think Kimi will either go to DTM or NASCAR for a bit more excitement, since he really isn’t getting that much support from Ferrari this year.
    Massa is getting lots of support, as he did last year, even though he is not the better driver – so much support that Schuey is always trackside for him.
    Considering how much Ferrari and Renault work together running the F1/GP2 package – Ferrari has connections with at least one of the GP2 teams and supplies engines to 3 F1 teams, and Flavio part owns GP2 with Bernie, and still manages lots of drivers – a deal between them about Alonso’s future is nearly a forgone conclusion.
    Alonso couldn’t go directly from McLaren to Ferrari, since Jean Todt called him all the names under the sun, but this way he ends up there.
    I do agree however, that Renault are making progress, and may be Championship material by 2010, while any spats between Alonso and Massa over the No 1 spot at Ferrari are liable to throw their plans off course. We know Alonso doesn’t like to be cheated, and by 2010 Massa will be expecting to be Top Dog (he does this year already, which is why Kimi takes every opportunity to out qualify him!).

  6. DG – “Back with Flavio and people who respect him” – whatever you think happened at McLaren last year, I don’t think respect was an issue. The mechanics flocked to Alonso’s side of the garage at the end of 2006 – they all wanted to work on the champion’s car. Those guys are the heart and soul of the team and I don’t think you can ask for a stronger vote of confidence from them than that.

    All the same, would he really risk making the mistake of leaving Renault twice? Alonso does not thrive on celebrity and I think he would get a lot of unwanted attention at Ferrari.

  7. I think Alonso is betting for BMW, it was said last year that as Heidfeld got a contract for this year nothing could be done (as heidfeld was consistently beating kubica) but this year seems different. Alonso has said that he wants a winning car next year wether it is renault or anyone else, if he sees that renault is no able to do the jump next year he will try his best to go for a top team, and BMW may have a seat for someone like he.
    That could mess up the things next year, Renault would have to search for a number one, or maybe could fall into oblivion, as Briatore said he would only be in the team while Alonso is, so he could leave also, i´ve heard that David richards is willing to buy a team like renault.
    For the rest, yoy wouldn´t forget Sato and davidson, their name were on air when piquet seat is talked, they could get a chance. And i don´t think Williams would be interested in glock at all, this season has proved nothing, so if toyota leave him, i´m afraid he would be in the cold

  8. Dave Richards used to run Renault breifly remember…

  9. Alonso battling it out in a Ferrari against Hamilton in the future , even if just for the sake of “settling old scores” , sounds like a very tantalising prospect to me. Thing is , it will all depend on what Massa can do this year . I guess if he can win the world championship , then he will be regarded even more highly by Ferrari , as they will see he has the confidence to do it again in 2009 , and will only want to replace Kimi in 2010 with a “number 2” to Massa – ie. not Alonso. But if Massa does not win , maybe 2010 will be Alonso’s year for Ferrari.

  10. I wonder who spreads all these rumours. Clearly, they don’t benefit Fernando’s nor Renault’s interests. Conspiranoic as I am, I think someone who doesn’t want him to go to Ferrari is forcing the Scuderia to publically deny their interest on Fernando, before knowing the outcome of this season.

    My bet is that Ferrari is just worried about Kimi’s performance, and if he doesn’t win this season Fernando has a chance of joining them. But nothing has been signed up by now.

  11. Well, if i´m correct, the last rumour came from a page that is known to be very close with maclaren, may i´m wrong, sure keith will know best, but if it is real it would be quite revealing

  12. Ninguen – yep, that’s what I heard :-)

  13. Keith – what you say must only be true up to the point where Alonso started accusing McLaren of backing Hamilton more than him (whether that was true or not).
    As for where the rumours come from, remember that during ‘Stepneygate’ Jean Todt accused Alonso of all sorts of things, but later in the season, the head of Ferrari said that Alonso was a wonderful driver!
    I took that as a very pointed message at the time….

  14. I hate Alonso I think he’s way too arrogant and I really don’t think he would be a good fit at the Scuderia. I am a big Massa fan (yes we exist), and I think Alonso at Ferrari would jeopardize the team, since he is not a team player unlike Massa. Let him go to whatever team will have their heads so far up his ass, like Renault does. I understand he’s a good track driver and great technical driver. But his personality is crap and his sportsmanship is also flaky.

  15. You’re certainly not the only Massa fan – I’m sure Number 38 will be along in a bit to give me chapter on verse on why I under-rate him…

    1. Because you shouldn’t.

  16. William Wilgus
    27th May 2008, 15:03

    In can’t believe Alonso to Ferrari is a done deal for one reason: why would either party commit to the other two years in advance knowing that the abilities of the other might decrease in the interim? No, all I can believe is that they might have an agreement of `first refusal’.

  17. I see your point Williams but Alonso signed for McLaren for 2007 in 2005, and Raikkonen is believed to have done likewise for Ferrari. As Joe Saward pointed out on, the big driver moves tend to be arranged a year or more in advance.

  18. My question is, why would someone want to commit himself to a team from 2010 onwards in a situation where we will have new rules and new cars from 2009 and nobody can really tell what teams will be on top next year ?

    Sure Ferrari is probably decent bet but why not wait for 2009 season and see ?

  19. DG – Kimi does not take every opportunity he has to outqualify Massa. On the contrary, it’s 4-2 to Massa this year, him being the only one with 3 PP so far. Massa as also outdriven Kimi in 3 of the last 4 races. As far as Ferrari go (and I’m a McLaren fan), they have a very, very good line-up. If you think about it, no other team has 2 drivers completely capable of winning the WDC. Why they would choose to disrupt that is beyond me.

  20. Outstanding picture of the potential driver market for 2009 Keith- it seems as though there are a limitless number of outcomes here. I think many of us assume that Kimi will leave F1 after his current deal is up, but what if he wants to stay? He’s said many times that he enjoys life at Ferrari, so perhaps would he stick around a bit longer? DG, I love the concept of Kimi in NASCAR- his laid-back style would suit him perfectly in the series. It’s a much different culture than F1, so I don’t know if he’d be open to it, but it dose make for interesting thought!

    Kudos to Ninguen for mentioning Sato and Davidson- I would think these guys will latch onto some team as at least a tester next season. As for Alonso, if Renault dose improve their form, I can see him sticking around. After all, with Kubica as an emerging title contender, would Dr. Mario really want a rerun of McLaren 2007 on his hands?

  21. may i correct you a little bit Diacho, Massa did in fact outqualify Räikkönen 5 times this year, not 4-2.

    As for the rumour, i’m with milos, i don’t see why Alonso should sign for Ferrari in view of the massive rule change, who knows what will happen in the coming years.

    Plus if they already sign him, Räikkönen would have decided to retire some months ago (and I don’t think so)

    Another plus, while Alonso is a good driver, there’re many good driver out there too and some might improve significantly by 2010, why should they sign him so early. The relationship between him and Massa maybe in doubt too, who knows.

  22. Kubica and Fernando are true friends, and I can’t find any reason why they could not race together for a well managed team.

    On the other side, I think that Bernie is a wise guy, who certainly know Internet and understand all the attention that the battle Hamilton – Alonso brings to his business. We all were aware of that after the Bahrain grand prix (Keith, How many answers did you have to the post of that race?, 150 +/-?). How much business is on the battle McLaren_Hamilton vs Ferrari_Alonso is something that my poor brain fails to understand.

  23. Gman: maybe you are right and Mclaren 2007 was Alonso’s fault. But i trully think Dennis as manager was the only one who doesn’t suceed managing a team, and the only responsible of the whole thing. Any other manager would have right now a driver and car championship.

    I think the only problem having Alonso and Kubica together would be have Dennis as manager of the team. ;)

  24. Massa fan club here …… sorry I’m late Keith. It’s the first cutting here on the plantation, long hours on the tractor. Alonso to Ferrari? It’s fun to read all the authorities but the bottom line, it’s ALL speculation.
    I’m more interested in replacing trainees like Piquet, Glock, Sutil, Vettel, Nagajima with more experienced drivers like Klien, Davidson, Sato, Luizzi, De La Rosa, even Montagny. F1 is WASTING talent while we suffer with a flood of un-qualified rookies.

  25. theRoswellite
    27th May 2008, 22:34

    I think I saw some evidence of Alonso’s move to Ferrari, in a very reliable location…………Massa’s eyes.

    @ milos: He would commit himself this far ahead because if he waits to see how competitive the car is……it will have another driver in it.

    @ William: Anyone looking at the established “systems” producing the cars will see that, at present and for the near future, there are only two CONSISTENT winners….the F boys and the M boys. Alonso sees that. He sees it at every race. It would be smart for him to sign something…… soon as he can. He is less of a dependable quantity considering his production vis a vis Hamilton. But, Ferrari know talent. Look at how long they have hung on to Massa, and look how he is performing now. It was a very smart decision by them and it is paying off.

    Just like the decision by Dennis to “grow” a driver in-house. In retrospect the Hamilton connection may be viewed as the smartest move of Ron’s entire career (remembering that it took a lot of savvy to sign Senna, but certainly no smarts were required to figure that one out, ditto for Prost).

    It certainly looks like you need to culture them young, ask Flavio, and sign them early.

  26. I like the Alonso to BMW rumour a lot more than the Alonso to Ferrari one.

    Seems like a better fit to me – I can see Alonso, Kubica and Theissen all working well together. Can’t see that same harmony from an Alonso, Massa and Domenicali/de Montezemolo team. And I do think it will be Kimi leaving rather than Felipe – he has never made any secret of the fact that he is not in F1 for the long haul.

  27. Does anyone see Bourdais staying with Toro Rosso another year? He is inexperienced at F1 to be great now, but give him a year and a competitive car and he could score points on a regular basis. He was too good in Champ Car to be too patient. Back to the USA for the IRL or a real F1 ride. Renault is an interesting possibility. What do you all think?

  28. Also, Bourdais has won at Montreal before, can he get a top 10 next weekend?

  29. OK, time to start catching up on commenting. :)

    Bourdais will do well at Montreal, but a Top 10? That depends on a bit of luck. But I think he can easily finish 12th or 13th.

    Now, the big one: has Alonso signed for Ferrari? I think he did sign something, but he probably didn’t sign a contract. For that to happen, Ferrari would’ve been sure someone was out by 2010. Massa’s contract is until the end of 2010, so unless he does dismally within the next few races (which I doubt), he’ll stay. As for Kimi, while it is known he won’t stay as long as Schumi in F1, I think a retirement decision from him would be much more spur-of-the-moment and not planned 2 years ahead.

    So what DID Alonso sign? He probably signed a document signifying his intention to drive for Ferrari, such that, IF there IS a vacant seat there in 2010, he gets it. But there are no guarantees there will be one.

    I hope that makes sense.

  30. In terms of Bourdais, his future with the outfit curently known as Toro Rosso must be linked to whatever will happen with the team after this season. Last I heard, the team was up for sale and looking for interested parties, and the ban on customer cars puts it’s very future into some uncertainty. If anyone has new insight on this, please pass it along, but any new change in ownership could have consequences for any of the drivers currently with the team.

    I think Bourdais is a talented driver who can bring a great deal to any team- I would think he would be in demand by many teams if suddenly available, but with many teams developing their owne talent, even a quality driver may face uncertain times on the F1 market.

  31. @Journeyer – I think that makes sense, Alonso and Ferrari waiting to see what Kimi does, and the performance of the new engines before committing themselves. On the other hand, since Schuey is still on their books, are Ferrari collecting World Champion Test Drivers?
    @Diacho – OK, so Kimi has been out-qualified and out raced by Massa, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been pushing! So he’s gone off the boil recently, and you really have to ask why, since he is such a good driver!
    Perhaps he is waiting on a decision himself?
    I think that unless Bourdais scores some points this year he will be heading back to the IRL.
    Overall, I think the teams are making a big mistake in not ‘maturing’ a batch of new talent in a similar way to McLaren, and I was surprised that Ferrari did not suddenly produce a couple of Italian/German ‘Wunderkind’ this year. Are they waiting for Schuey 3? Does anybody know if there is a Ferrari or Alfa Romeo racing school? I think there ought to be one.
    Generally the current ‘young’ drivers are not being allowed to race properly, and since there is no ‘Rookie’ Championship, the teams have no incentive to push them and only use them as distinctly ‘No2’ and ‘No3’ drivers. How are they to going learn the skills required to be Champions?

  32. Not bad predictions Keith! Grosjean and Piquet were right!

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