2009 F1 driver rumours: Alonso & Senna

Who will Fernando Alonso be driving for in 2009?

Who will Fernando Alonso be driving for in 2009?

The rumours about Fernando Alonso joining Honda appear to be gaining strength with some sources suggesting a deal has already been done. And several teams appear to be interested in signing Bruno Senna.

Plus, Heikki Kovalainen was confirmed as a McLaren driver last weekend, for at least one more year, on what turned out to be the eve of his first F1 win. Let’s take a look at some of the rumours around the 2009 F1 driver market.

Fernando Alonso to Honda

Rumour rating:

I was a bit sceptical about this rumour when I first heard about it in June. But yesterday Guardian journalist Alan Henry put his name to an article claiming Fernando Alonso will partner Jenson Button at Honda in 2009 and even stated the fee involved: ?ι?ϊ7.6m ($15m).

There are a couple of things about the rumour that seem strange. Would Alonso really want to change teams for the third year in a row? Henry even suggests the deal might only be for one year as Alonso may to Ferrari in 2010, making it four changes in as many years. Is this stretching the limits of credulity too far?

On the other hand Renault seem in no better shape this year than they were last year and Alonso is in as good a place as anyone to judge how they will perform in 2009. Honda seem to have bags of potential: they were the first team to get their Kinetic Energy Recovery System on-track (with no reports of mechanics being electrocuted) and have made it quite clear how much of thier effort has been focused on 2009. Plus, they’ve got Ross Brawn, one of the pitlane’s foremost strategists.

If Alonso were to leave Renault, who would replace him? Assuming Renault are going to keep Nelson Piquet Jnr they’d probably want a more experienced driver alongside him. So would they take Rubens Barrichello in a straight swap? Or might BMW drop Nick Heidfeld?

Kazuki Nakajima stays at Williams

Rumour rating:

Toyota have Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock contracted for 2009 (some news sources are running stories claiming Glock has had a contract extension for next year, but his deal was described as ‘multi-year’ when it was announced last year).

Although Kazuki Nakajima’s pace hasn’t been quite a match for Nico Rosberg’s he finished in the points more often and is showing signs of improvement.

If Nakajima were to go anywhere else it would be Toyota, so another year at Williams looks like a good bet.

Heikki Kovalainen stays at McLaren

Rumour rating:
Done deal

I didn’t have time to write a post about it, but Kovalainen has been confirmed at a McLaren driver. That means McLaren and Ferrari each have all their drivers contracted for 2009 (Hamilton is signed until 2012), but apparently Alonso has not firmed up his 2009 plans yet in the hope Raikkonen may quit his contract a year early to retire.

Bruno Senna to Williams

Rumour rating:

Until now speculation on the future of Bruno Senna (nephew of Ayrton) linked him to the seat at Toro Rosso left vacant by Sebastian Vettel.

But as Senna closes in on GP2 series leader Giorgio Pantano rumours have linked him to test drives at BMW and Toyota. Another rumour puts him at Williams in a move backed by the team’s petrol supplier Petrobras, which is Brazilian.

In order for that to work, however, he’d have to squeeze either Rosberg or Nakajima out of their Williams seats, which doesn’t look too likely at the moment. Senna has said he wants a race seat, and Toro Rosso is the only team that seems able to offer that right now.

But if a BMW test seat is available he may consider that a better bet than Toro Rosso. BMW are a top three team, whereas the future of Toro Rosso is uncertain as owner Dietrich Mateschitz is looking to sell the team. Senna began his single-seater career in Formula BMW.

Bruno Senna: Meet the rookies

BMW to drop Nick Heidfeld

Rumour rating:

Before the Hungarian Grand Prix Mario Theissen indicated he was not yet convinced Nick Heidfeld had gotten past the problems he was suffering earlier in the year:

I am very confident that he has overcome the weak period, but you don’t get into this within a week and you don’t get out of it within a week. So, he has to work systematically – and he is working systematically. And I am confident he will get back to full performance and full confidence.

Heidfeld was eliminated in the first round of qualifying at Hungary – no thanks to Sebastien Bourdais. But his qualifying performances relative to Robert Kubica’s are still poor: he has only beaten Kubica once on Saturday – and that was when the Pole spent the final part of the session in the garage with a car problem.

If BMW did drop Heidfeld they might promote test driver Christian Klien, who has quite a lot of F1 experience. But this is all highly speculative. BMW’s options on Heidfeld and Kubica expire at the end of next month and the team are believed to want to extend Kubica’s deal until the end of 2010.

F1 2009 drivers and teams
F1 2009 season

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34 comments on 2009 F1 driver rumours: Alonso & Senna

  1. Gman said on 6th August 2008, 0:05

    Donwatters and EGC- I can think of several good reasons why Honda would take on Alonso for just one year. Allow me to explain below:

    At the moment, most people involved with F1 view Honda in the same way they view Toyota- a quality car company with plenty of funds that has not reached the same platform as the elite teams. If Honda were to bring Alonso aboard, it would be an instant boost in nearly every way for the club. His race performance obviously would be good, but he’d also be a smash hit in attracting sponsorship, and his legions of fans would suddenly be pulling for Ross and Company.

    And in 2010, Fernando wanders off to Ferrari, leaving Honda in a much more popular and competitive position than when he came in. Button would also be better off after being pushed by Fred for a season, and could easily step into the unofficial team-leader position. As for a replacement, Klein, Sato and the usual names would come up, but Honda would perhaps take a gamble other teams may be afriad to by signing….Marco Andretti. He’s tested for them in the past and currently drives a Honda-powered car in the IndyCar series. A strong season in the American-based series may set him up for big things in 2010.

  2. donwatters said on 6th August 2008, 0:12

    A most interesting concept, Gman. Although it does make a certain amount of sense, except for the Marco part, I still think the overall value to Honda of having FA onboard for just one season is dumb idea. Honda doesn’t need the money or the sponsors….and Flavio knows how to coddle him. I’m not sure Ross would feel comfortable having to babysit a driver. He certainly never had that problem with Michael. No, the smart move for FA is to stay at Renault next year, continue to show his abilities, and then move to Ferrari for what could well be his third championship.

  3. Gman said on 6th August 2008, 0:14

    As for the other guys….

    – I still think Senna is a lock for the STR seat no matter what happens with the team’s future. Indeed, his sponsorship potential may make him even more attractive to whoever the new owner would be than it dose to Red Bull. If for some unknown reason he dosen’t get the seat, he’ll surley wind up in a testing role with one of the top teams.

    – I think Heidfeld has done enough to keep his ride for 2009- his string of second-places has helped keep the team in the constructor’s chase. The only way I could see him being dumped is if Alonso or some other big-time name came seriously knocking.

    – At the end of the day, the odd man out has to be Rubens- I don’t think he’s performed all that badly this season, but if Honda can get Alonso, his days are all but numbered in green and white. Perhaps he could side in at Renault, as I don’t think Flav would pair up Piquet with another youngster such as Grosjean just yet.

  4. donwatters said on 6th August 2008, 0:21

    Gman: You’re absolutely right about Senna. Toro Roso is the ideal place for him next season for all the reasons you mentioned. Watch, he’ll win the GP2 championship, or even finish 2nd, and within 10 days there will be a press release out about his signing with Toro Roso. The only real question in my mind is: Will SeaBass still be there. I hope so. He’s a good kid, a good driver, and deserves another season to show his stuff.

  5. Gman said on 6th August 2008, 0:26

    donwatters, I agree that from Fernando’s perspective, he probably should stay with Renault-they do know how to take care of him and give him his number one status. But for Honda, this could be their opportunity to break into the big time- the opportunity to sign a two-time champion dosen’t come along very often. On the money part, yes Honda has funds, but they don’t even have a title sponsor at the moment- surely his potential with sponsors would come into play in such a dealing.

    And on Marco Andretti, I believe he dose need to show a bit more to get a shot in F1, both in terms of on-track results and off-track maturity. But if he develops in the next year or two, don’t count him out of F1. And then, the many F1 fans here in America will have our own challenger to get the Stars and Stripes flying over the top step of the podium.

  6. donwatters said on 6th August 2008, 0:32

    Don’t get me wrong, Gman. I would LOVE to see Marco in F1. I’m still heartbroken on how it worked out for his dad. Lot’s of blame on both sides on that one.

    Of course sponsors would be attracted to any team FA was with…but again, Honda doesn’t need the sponsorship. It would be nice, but it’s not critical to their operation like it is to so many other teams.

  7. Gman said on 6th August 2008, 1:10

    Very good discussion donwatters!! Indeed, Marco Andretti in F1 would/will be a great thing. I was way too young to remember his dad’s time with McLaren, but Marco’s comments about that siutation are the kind of immature remarks I was referring to. Hopefully he’ll look forward and focus on his own career, and land an F1 drive in the near future.

    The sponsorship aspect is always a plus- I was thinking of rival Toyota’s deal with Panasonic, plus how much sponsorship Fernando has attracted to the team’s he’s been with. Ineed, Honda can survive, even thrive, without it, but i’m sure it’s in the back of their minds when talking with FA and his entourage.

  8. the limit said on 6th August 2008, 2:16

    Fernando Alonso will not go to Honda, or any other team than either BMW Sauber or Ferrari. I have always felt that Alonso is a man who desires to be ‘one of the very best’ drivers, and to do that, he needs a car capable of winning championships.
    I just can’t see him going to Honda, and just racing at the back of the field forever, reminding everybody that he was once a world champion, in the Jacques Villeneuve mould. That just isn’t Fernando’s style.
    As for Honda, and I say this with gritted teeth, I believe that Rubens Barrichello will be forced into retirement, much like David Coulthard has.
    That may leave the door open for a number of drivers, especially Sato, Davidson, Klein, and a host of others, but not Alonso.
    The debate on Bruno Senna has me fascinated, in the direction his career will take. I am a little concerned about Toro Rosso, and the reliability of their package.
    If I were Bruno, and had the opportunity, I would aim a little higher, and maybe join a bigger team as a test driver.
    That way he would get his feet wet without too much public attention, and would learn an awfull lot about the car. In many ways, most of these rumours to me are delibrate on the part of the teams themselves.
    In the case of Williams, I think they are just using a ‘little scare’ tactic towards their drivers, Nico Rosberg especially, by suggesting that Senna may go there.
    Wherever he goes, he is going to make somebody a boat load of money.

  9. Jian said on 6th August 2008, 6:31

    donwatters post #15: I think you wrote about Massa, so what do you think about his “I have always been good in the rain” after Silverstone? All drivers have inflated egos and are big headed in one way or another.

  10. Alonso at Honda? Does this mean Rubey is thinking of retiring? Maybe he is going into partnership with DC somewhere?
    The Alonso/Brawn mix at Honda may well be whats needed to push the team into the top 10, but surely the team bosses wouldn’t spend all that money on a driver just for a year? It will take two or three to see results surely? And also, just because Honda haven’t mentioned any problems with KERS doesn’t mean they haven’t had any, they just haven’t said anything.
    And with Alonso at Honda, he will have to be No1 driver, pushing Jenson to No2. Or is Jenson going to move on elsewhere and Honda will get in a Rookie?
    Speaking of which, I still think an Alonso/Massa combination at Ferrari, although good on paper won’t work in practice, as both will need to be No1, unless the Ferrari bosses are really good at keeping them focused, and without either Ross Brawn or Jean Todt, I don’t see that happening…..

  11. What an activity during the night! :-)
    Well Gman, i don’t doubt that Honda or others would like to have Alonso with them (ok…uncle Ron no…) but this was not my point.
    Alonso should not move to a new team for a year if he really wants and has the chance to go finally to Ferrari.
    I think that if he moves again he will lose the “tempo” again.
    So, let’s wait Kimi decision.
    Have a nice day :-)

  12. Taimur said on 6th August 2008, 12:57

    Alonso on Renault in 2009

    “Honestly I think it’s difficult because although there are going to be completely new rules, next year there could be changes, but I’ve never seen a car that’s been fighting down the field one year suddenly beat the entire field the next,” Alonso told Cadena Ser in Spain

    Mclaren 2006 – blah
    Mclaren 2007 !!!

  13. Kester said on 6th August 2008, 13:11

    Mclaren 2006 were the third best car, they just struggled with reliability. That would be akin to you saying it would be completely shocking if BMW won the 2009 championship.

  14. Taimur said on 6th August 2008, 16:51

    thats cause unlike this year, the rest of the field were too far behind. Mclaren were uncompetitive, unreliable and also did not win a single race!. Similar to Renault this season. BMW has been very much in contention for both titles this year till now, Mclaren in 2006 were never in such a situation…

  15. Carlos said on 6th August 2008, 20:58

    Marco Andretti should go to GP2 first if he has any intentions of entering F1. Senna could do well in STR but he will need to perform well and find Lady Luck somewhere because running back there is tough. Sebastian B went as far as crashing a brand new car in a test for Gods sake. I had hopes he could do better. As for FA he beat MS when MS was The Man so he is fun to watch and an excellent driver.

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