Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An F1 'silly season' rumor - Alonso will stay with Renault for now....but will be in Ferrari by 2010?!

A week ago, I mentioned that both BMW Sauber and Honda were very much interested to sign Fernando Alonso to their teams; that is, if his contract with Renault ran for only a year or if it had a performance clause allowing him to get out if he wanted to based on certain conditions.

Well, according to one report, Alonso has opted to stay with Renault after turning down BMW Sauber's offer while ruling Honda out from the running. Alonso was only looking for a flexible, short-term contract with BMW Sauber to allow him the freedom to sign with Ferrari after the 2010 season, the year the contracts of both Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen run out. But BMW Sauber was insisting on a longer, multi-year contract which led to Alonso turning down the offer. Alonso also conveniently believes that Renault will perform much better than BMW Sauber next season, owing to the new aero rules and the introduction of the new KERS system along with the return of slick tires. Yeah, right. If it helps you sleep better at night..

As for Honda... do I even have to explain why Alonso turned them down?

Still, another report has it that Alonso just might be in Ferrari by 2010, a year earlier than expected since both Massa and Räikkönen's contract expire at the end of that year. According to the report, Alonso has already signed an agreement with Ferrari that's good for four years and that the Italian team will just terminate the last year in Kimi's contract by buying it out.

So, why did Ferrari announce the extension in the first place? Apparently, the extension was triggered by the Flying Finn through a one-sided option in his contract, allowing him to renew for one more year. My guess is, Kimi found out that Ferrari was talking with Alonso, and since he'll be on the last year of his contract with Ferrari next year, he beat Ferrari to the punch by renewing his contract instead of letting Ferrari run it out and have Alonso occupy his seat the following year. Shrewd move by Kimi then.

But why buy Kimi's contract out instead of letting him work for it? Well, Ferrari can't afford another underwhelming season from Kimi. Sure, Kimi has the pace; setting the fastest laps in nine GPs this season is proof of that. But going really fast AND not producing enough podium finishes - let alone race wins - is putting a serious damper on Ferrari's run for the constructors' championship, not to mention the cash prize they get to take home if they win it.

So again, why buy it out instead of letting him work for it? Apparently - and gee, what a coincidence! - Banco Santander's contract with McLaren only runs until the end of 2009, leaving the team open to move to Ferrari as their title sponsor. And since Santander is so keen to have Alonso's name attached with them (Spanish bank, Spanish driver, lots of pesos to be gained publicity-wise), the bank just might pick up the tab to
Räikkönen's last year with Ferrari, paving the way for Alonso to make the jump to Ferrari. Santander's happy to finally be associated with Alonso for more than a year and Ferrari's happy to have a double champion who's still hungry to win more. It's a win-win situation for both.

But what if Räikkönen makes up for this year's failings by putting up a superb run next season? Well, that could only mean Massa will get the boot unless his contract also has a one-sided option allowing him to race for Ferrari for another year. But if not, then it's Massa's contract that gets bought out. And when that happens, that means it's going to be Kimi and Fernando with Ferrari come 2010! And that's a volatile line-up right there, right along the lines of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in McLaren during the '88 and '89 seasons!

Either way, regardless if it's going to be Kimi or Felipe who'll get booted out, I can't wait to watch the fireworks once Alonso joins Ferrari.

Still, I stand by what I said. Can Ferrari and Alonso get along, knowing that both parties are capable of playing dirty with the other party if it serves to benefit them? Well, if both parties will benefit from it, I don't see why not. But if it only serves one while leaving the other party on the short end of the stick... Hmmm...

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