Fernando Alonso spoke out tonight about rumours in the F1 paddock that he is lining up to defect from Ferrari to McLaren next year.
The story has snowballed in the last 24 hours since McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh praised Alonso as “one of the best” and said that he would love to sign him if he could, despite the spectacular fall out between the team and driver in 2007. The delay in announcing Jenson Button and Sergio Perez served to feed the doubts.
Clearly wanting to nip the stories in the bud, Alonso took the unusual step of speaking to the media after Free Practice 2, something he usually does not do.
“It’s nice to hear comments from all the team principals every year saying they respect my job and personality, especially McLaren,” Alonso said.
“There were so many rumours that we had a lot of problems that year, but I always said that there are no problems with anyone, it was just the philosophy of the team, especially one man in the team that is not already (sic) there.
“It is good to have these comments but there is no intention. I have three more years with Ferrari and I hope many more to come if we can extend the contract and that would be my hope.”
Ferrari has repeated that it has three years remaining on the contract with the Spaniard from 2014 onwards and while McLaren would seem to be the only possible option, should he feel like leaving, realistically any escape clauses in his contract would be unlikely to be triggered by the current situation. He’s second in the world championship, has won races and scored multiple podiums, so performance clauses are likely to have been satisfied.
Only a clause which guaranteed him number one status would be at risk, given the arrival of Raikkonen, but it isn’t legally possible to sign a contract with one driver which invalidates another contract.
Ferrari would countenance the Spaniard taking a year off, but not moving to a rival team and any such move would have to be negotiate with their participation.
Alonso added on Saturday that he is actively discussing an extension to his Ferrari deal, “We are working very closely on arriving at that situation because I hope to end my career in Formula One with Ferrari.
“To sit together and to try to do it, that’s my desire, and the team has expressed to me more or less the same desire when we talk about this.
However, McLaren are serious about rehiring Alonso and the possibility of him moving to McLaren in 2015 must be considered real. Honda will enter the sport with a new turbo engine and a big budget. Alonso is likely to be a key target for them.