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

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Monte-Carlo, 2008, 470150

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

  1. William Wilgus said on 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’.

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th May 2008, 15:09

    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 Grandprix.com, the big driver moves tend to be arranged a year or more in advance.

  3. 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 ?

  4. Diacho said on 27th May 2008, 15:44

    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.

  5. Gman said on 27th May 2008, 19:45

    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?

  6. Euna said on 27th May 2008, 19:56

    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.

  7. Architrion said on 27th May 2008, 21:29

    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.

  8. frecon said on 27th May 2008, 22:02

    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. ;)

  9. Number 38 said on 27th May 2008, 22:12

    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.

  10. theRoswellite said on 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……..as 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Steve K said on 28th May 2008, 3:33

    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?

  13. Steve K said on 28th May 2008, 3:35

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

  14. Journeyer said on 28th May 2008, 4:39

    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.

  15. Gman said on 28th May 2008, 4:42

    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.

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