Every few years in Formula 1 the silly season goes into overdrive while the teams wait for the biggest driver on the market to make his move.
Top drivers and top teams pairing up always has a degree of inevitability about it: like Ayrton Senna joining Williams in 1994, and McLaren signing Kimi Raikkonen in 2002.
Fernando Alonso has been linked to a move to Ferrari ever since his McLaren deal went sour. Will it finally come to be in 2010?
As TommyB posted on the forum yesterday, the Spanish press has been buzzing in recent days with rumours claiming Ferrari will announce Alonso’s deal at the Italian Grand Prix.
There doesn’t appear to be much substance behind this latest story. But Ferrari traditionally announce changes in their driver line-up at Monza and the Alonso deal has been tipped for some time. The story may have simply been a means of bolstering traffic during a quiet few days following the latest round of the FIA-FOTA row.
What really gave this story legs was the report in December by Italian journalist Pino Allievi, a man credited by those in the know as having a solid line on developments at Ferrari. Around this time, 82% of F1 Fanatic readers reckoned the deal was on.
Not long afterwards, Gerhard Berger revealed Toro Rosso had been in contract negotiations with Alonso for 2009, but the Spanish driver had said he was looking for a ‘transitional’ year before moving on somewhere else. Berger drew the conclusion that Alonso’s destination team is Ferrari.
The right deal for both parties?
Suspicion has fallen on Kimi Raikkonen as being the Ferrari driver most likely to be moved aside. After winning the championship in 2007 his results tailed off last year, demonstrated by his error-strewn four race streak without a point scored.
Felipe Massa, of course, fared rather better last year – had the rain at Interlagos fallen 30 seconds later his Ferrari would have the number one on it.
Ferrari are believed to have Banco Santander lined up to foot part of the bill – conveniently, their colour schemes match up.
The attraction for Alonso is clear. Ferrari may be off the pace this year, but that is hardly typical of their form over the past decade. Renault, meanwhile, have handed him poor cars two years in a row.
All the progress Renault made throughout 2008, culminating in two victories, turned to naught over the winter as the team lost ground to their rivals despite being handed a significant concession from the FIA to improve their engine performance.
In short, everything seems to be aligned perfectly for Alonso to make that move to Ferrari. And if they are going to keep everyone waiting another two-and-a-half months to announce it, well, that just keeps the opposition guessing…