What is behind Alonso’s link with Red Bull?
McLaren
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Jul 2013   |  12:14 pm GMT  |  297 comments

The Formula 1 rumour mill was in full flow in the Hungarian Grand Prix paddock on Sunday with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso linked with a move to reigning world champions Red Bull.

So is this real, what is behind it and what happens next?

The suggestion is that Alonso’s management approached Red Bull on Friday in Hungary about the possibility of driving for them, with the Milton Keynes-based outfit having a vacant seat from next season as Mark Webber is leaving the sport to compete in sportscars.

Alonso told the BBC after the race: “Always in August there are rumours. It’s a good time for rumours because there are four weeks with no F1 race.” When asked whether his manager Luis Garcia Abad had spoken to Red Bull, Alonso said: “No I don’t think so. Not that I know of.”


A photo of Abad with Red Bull boss Christian Horner appeared in German tabloid Sport Bild (above) and this has triggered the chatter. Alonso’s camp say that Abad was talking to Horner about Carlos Sainz Jr, who tested for the team at Silverstone recently.

It’s not unusual for managers to speak to team principals, it happens all the time. For example, Richard Goddard, manager of Jenson Button and Paul di Resta was seen by this website coming out of a meeting with Horner in one of the back rooms of the Red Bull motorhome at the weekend. That doesn’t mean either of his drivers is going to Red Bull. But there is always a conversation to be had around this time of year.

Sources suggest that there has been a conversation about Alonso, but much like the one Lewis Hamilton had with Horner at Montreal in 2011, it is highly unlikely to lead to a marriage. Rather it shows a restlessness and desire to look around. Dangerously for him, Ferrari and the millions of tifosi, it shows disloyalty which doesn’t play well in Italian circles. And with four weeks for it to hang in the air, it creates an unsettled mood at the moment when the team needs to be united to find a competitive package for the second half of the season.

The fact is that Alonso has a five year contract at Ferrari, the team is based around him, he has a high degree of say on how the team is run and in major appointments, like incoming technical director James Allison.

However the clock is ticking for Alonso who celebrates his 32nd birthday today. All the signs are that Ferrari’s 2013 championship challenge is blunted, new developments have not kept pace meanwhile the momentum is now with Mercedes. Next year Mercedes is expected to have a title contending car under the new rules and Red Bull is certain to be the main opposition. The time for Alonso to get his third world title, the crowning ambition of this ambitious driver, is running out. There are question marks about how potent the Ferrari powertrain will be for 2013. Industry insight puts Mercedes ahead of Renault with Ferrari behind. Allison and his clever aerodynamics may not be enough.

It is very hard to imagine Red Bull, which has a very methodical approach to racing, wanting Alonso, for the same reason Ferrari don’t want Vettel alongside Alonso: It’s too inflammatory a situation. It would create great headlines but both drivers would be rattled and it would end in tears.

Raikkonen is a better fit because he is non-political. The problem Red Bull would have with Raikkonen is that he would want complete parity with Vettel on race strategy, rather than first call going to Vettel every time, as – judging from current qualifying form – he would be likely to be ahead on the road more often than not in the opening stint of a race.

Red Bull has a tried and tested formula, aimed at collecting maximum constructors’ points for the team and controlling the race with Vettel. Alonso would upset that formula totally while Raikkonen may ask for things they aren’t willing to give him. It would require them to run the team like McLaren, which has proven less effective than the Red Bull approach or the even more one-sided Ferrari approach.

So we are talking about some fundamentals about the way a team is run and Alonso clearly doesn’t fit.

However, what is interesting about this situation is 1) why has Alonso risked coming across as disloyal to Ferrari and its fans, creating a situation which destabilises Maranello over the long summer break 2) how the various parties have reacted to questions about it.


Ahead of the long summer break, Red Bull boss Christian Horner sees an opportunity for mischief, with no downside for him and his team. He said on Sunday that the team have not yet decided who will fill Webber’s seat, adding that several drivers have been in touch regarding a race drive.

“We are starting to get a clearer picture but then other options pop up. We are in fortunate position where we are not in a rush,” he said. “We have a great deal of interest in the seat and we just want to make sure we get it right.”

Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel was asked by the BBC if he would like to race alongside Alonso.

Choosing his words carefully, the German said: “I’d prefer Kimi. I need to be careful now, but nothing against Fernando, I really respect him a lot as a driver, but I respect Kimi on track, off track because he has always been very straight with me. From that point of view it would be a bit easier.”

You don’t need a PhD in semantics to read between the lines of that answer. Vettel’s skill with English and the subtlety of nuance in his answers is always impressive.

Alonso started the season strongly with two wins and a second in the first five races, but his championship challenge has since tailed off and Vettel has been able to build a sizeable lead at the top of the standings.

If Alonso is not successful in winning the title this year – his first since 2006 – it would be a fourth missed opportunity with the Italian team.

The Spaniard has made a long-term commitment to Ferrari with his current deal not set to expire until 2016. He might argue that his loyalty over these last four seasons has not been repaid with competitive cars, despite competing for two of the last three world titles to the final race.

There will be get-out clauses in his contract if the car isn’t competitive enough, but Alonso has won twice this year and is third in the championship, with 77% of Vettel’s points, so we are unlikely to be in a position where he can action an escape.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali looked calm but irritated on Sunday when he said: “We have a contract with Fernando, Fernando is an asset for the team. “[The rumours] is part of the game in this F1 paddock. We are very used to it. Honestly it’s gone in this ear and gone out that ear. 

“For sure [Alonso will be at Ferrari next year] he has a contract.”

He will be at Ferrari next year, no doubt. But what will be the legacy of this episode?

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1

James, I think you nailed all the reasons that this is not going to happen. I wont claim to know all his motives, but everything Alonso does seems to me to have a deliberate angle about it. I disagree that he wasn’t aware his manager was talking to Horner…Alonso is a shrewd character. He would be aware of the risks of loyalty perceptions, but then HE hasn’t been seen talking to anyone from RB has he?

One possibility is that this is all very hands off from Alonso’s point of view. Plant a little seed during the silly season, let the media do what it does…create a little drama and stir things up. Let the teams and public mull over it and speculate. In the end it will do nothing more than give Ferrari another nudge to step up, meanwhile reinforcing that he is a valued commodity that isn’t above looking over the fence at Maranello. I think Alonso is a master tactician on and off the track.

Meanwhile RB will not let the opportunity slip to milk this for every drop of PR they can.

2

I think its about time people realised how much of a great Driver Sebastian is than Alonso. I mean to be honest the order in the grid now is

1-Vettel

2-Kimi

3-Hamilton

4-Webber

5-Alonso

Just because alonso had 2 titles doesnt make him better than vettel or hamilton. I think Seb has been the greatest qualifier after senna and hamilton doesnt do BS with politics like alonso so I have respect for him in that way. Kimi would be the best fit for Seb or even JB if that is an option 🙂

3

Thanks JA for a great article.

I personally would love to see a Vettel/Button combo (impossible though it maybe).

Button seems to get along with everyone, he does the team ‘thing’ extremely well, knows when to keep his mouth shut, he is not good at qualy (so Vettel will usually start ahead and won’t get frustrated), excels when he likes the equipment (and RB have great cars) and has out pointed two World Champion teammates.

I think he would be perfect for that team.

Though, no doubt, most disagree.

4
bronwyn collier

My comment above might also be the reason Alonso has started looking at alternatives?!

5

@101

Last time Ferrari had a championship contending car?

2007/2008…. just sayin… 😉

Ferrari have the best driver in f-1 in their team, yet for 4 years THEY have been letting him down. without Alonso, Ferrari would have been a laughing stock these past 4 years, no one could’ve done what Alonso has done with the past Ferrari’s. The only one to take the fight to the much much superior RBR’s. It’s about time ferrari hold up their end of the agreement and give him a championship contending car. It took Alonso 3.5 years to voice his frustration at Ferrari, it took Hamilton 6 months to be quite vocal about his frustration at mercedes.

6

This is the silliest of all silly season after reading the comments.

And after all Alonso is going nowhere.

Luca and Alonso will kiss and make up.

No way will Horner and Marko allow Vettel and Alonso to fall in love.

I suspect they’ve all ganged up to make us fans fume or whatever, cause four weeks to Spa is like forever. The power of media.

7

I’m left a little confused over one aspect of the article. I thought the higher ups at Red Bull always sang the same song about no team orders, and allowing the drivers to race, equal opportunity, love for racing and etc. The article seems to imply Vettel is the number one driver, fair enough it’s difficult to argue against his trophy haul, but I still thought that RBR wanted to stick to that true racer, lets the drivers go at it image.

Vic

8

Well, they want to seen to be representing that, but don’t really wanna….

9

Last Ferrari Drivers Champion?

Kimi Raikkönen… Just sayin… 😉

10

First year, first WDC….. Cool as Ice

Go go Iceman….. 🙂

11

Its kinda shocking that Ferrari and McLaren haven’t won anything since the new regulation changes…

12

The current regulations were intended to do just that.

Newey couldn’t believe his luck.

13

How about a driver swap – Vettel and Alonso.

Horner finds it hard to manage Vettel and would prefer a more professional driver. As demonstrated by not follwoing team instructions repeatedly.

Well it is the silly season….

14

Vettel is fantastic to manage compared with Alonso. Just look at the reason for this article!

Notwithstanding, I’ll enjoy seeing Vettel respond if Ferrari can’t deliver a car for him, if the reports of his eventual move to Ferrari are accurate; but then again, the smartest driver in F1 will never go to the Red team, if they can’t deliver.

15

Hello James,

I enjoyed this article, but there is one name missing: Bernie Ecclestone. He brokered the deal when Schumacher wanted to break his Jordan contract for Benetton and ive no doubt -if- there will be a break between Alonso and Ferrari, hes the one that will mediate. I also think Santander and Mateschitz will compensate Ferrari bigtime. Also, they wouldnt want to have a driver who isnt commited anymore.

Alonso really must be scratching his head what to do. Allison wont have an influence on the 2014 Ferrari and so Fernandos earliest next title charge would be 2014, when hell become 34… Then there is the fact even if they produce a good car, how will Ferrari fix their endless in-season development problems? They have been recalibrating, reorganising since 2009. Domenicali has been saying ‘we must stay calm’ now for at least 300 times.

I think Alonso should count his chickens and at least try to get that Red Bull, Newey designed seat. Thatll take a lot of investing in relations with Vettel, Horner. No more comments thats hes not fighting Vettel but Newey but at least hell be in a proven title fighting team, with a great in season development track record.

For Red Bull the choice would easely be Kimi, no doubt, but Kimi has his own problems of being temperamental, not wanting to invest time in PR or testing. Alonso is opposite, and Schumacher-esque in devotion, and I think it must be tempting for Mateschitz to create a superteam Vettel – Alonso. The best line up since Prost – Senna.

16

You forgort about the Lewis/Alonso line-up.

Best of recent times….

17

I don´t believe Helmut Marko will accept Alonso as Vettel´s teamate, too risky for Vettel and Red Bull. Red Bull doesn´t need Alonso at the moment, why risk everything??

18

I’m not why this is ‘risky’ as team orders are now allowed.

Whoever is ahead is ahead, at any point they can decide to hold station.

19

Just to say, if Fernando’s agent wants to speak with Red Bull about Sainz Jr, he’ll be speaking with Marko not Horner. So its pretty clear there is something behind this… + Fernando better hurry, Bianchi is on his way 😉

20

Anyone else got visions of Redbull tossing Vettel out the pram and double swooping for Alonso and Kimi before Mercedes or Mclaren get a forth coming chance to sign them? easily the 2 best drivers on the grid makes a lot of sense especially with kimi being near zero confrontational!

21

Right. Red Bull would totally toss out their triple world champion who got them 6 titles in the last 3 years and never failed to deliver when it mattered for Alonso who does nothing but badmouth his car, underperforms in qualifying and chokes under pressure. Right. That totally makes sense. Not.

22

Some things just do not add up. I know this is most of the time the case in F1 but I still would like to point out a couple of things.

1.Why would Red Bull(RBR) maintain and pay millions of dollars for a young driver development program and Torro Rosso if RBR have absolutely no intentions in using these features?

2.Why would Alonso want to leave Ferrari who build the team around him? If he would like to leave why leave at the start of such an unstable season like 2014?

3.Why would RBR start trouble and stir their winning streak by getting a driver who will actually grab points away from their “Golden Child” who has proven he is fit and very capable to do the/this job.

4.Kimi’s salary will be pretty high and he will have to play along in the RBR media circus. How long will Kimi be motivated? He already pointed out he has unfinished business with Rally racing.
It does not matter how great/good you are. Even if you have been a former champion it will take time to adjust to a new team. Sometimes it even takes longer as a year. Kimi is almost 34. Time is starting to count.

5.Ferrari is most of the time a team at the end of a champs career. I think Vettel will do 2 or 3 years more RBR and end his career with Ferrari as Hamiltons teammate.Both will end career at Ferrari I think. When Vettel leaves one of the young drivers they pick now will have matured enough to pull the wagon.

6.Why would an appointment with Horner be so in the open. If managers would have met for example at Horners house this media circus would not have been. Little strange to stir things up like that. Does not make sense to me. Just casual and friendly meetings..nothing fancy.

7. No way Alonso will be so harsh to Ferrari to pull a stunt like the media is claiming. I do not believe it for a sec.If Alsonso wants to make a point to Ferrari he wil not do it like this and especially not together with number one enemy RBR. It’s a champ unworthy and he will NOT/NEVER do.

Disclaimer: I am just thinking out loud and I do not want to step on the soul of my fellow hardcore F1 fans. Please see this as my opinion and my thoughts are a response to the things I read and hear.

PS: I won so much money betting on Hamilton to win in Hungary. It’s just sick how much….:) James, could we have a feature ” James F1 insiders betting tips” I would be willing to share winnings if your tips are any good 🙂

23

Alonso constantly changes either he wins or not, he has been already with Renault, Mclaren and Ferrari, he´s recognized as one of the bests but for sure with two titles he´ll be far from the top 3 in the history were most sure he want to be. I think he´s trying to bull Ferrari and see if they raise their game and why not seing if there´s an interest from RBR in that respect. The santander sponsorship it´s good but i don´t see it going anywere from ferrari, maybe they will bring something extra to RBR IF that deal happens. Only drivers can see what´s going on in the teams and maybe Alonso it´s not seing something good in Ferrari for next year and maybe RBR will have the upper hand in this case. HAM played his card very well leaving his comfort zone in order to extract again the maximun from himself and it´s starting to show it was worthy

24
Thread the Needle

Luca’s not happy with Alonso, looking for a new drive and criticising the car, this may be Alonso’s way of giving Ferrari a wake up call, but Ferrari don’t normally stand for this type of behaviour, plus Vettel would prefer Kimi in the other Redbull, interesting times ahead in the driver market

25

It boggles my mind that Ferrari takes this trashing from Alonso! Schumacher trashed & controlled Ferrari. Kimi came in, no politics, no trashing, just raced the car & won the WDC. Ferrari’s only WDC in the last 8 years. They fired him. Alonso comes in & trashes & has taken over control of Ferrari & they let him!?! Why?!?! It boggles my mind!

26
Mike from Colombia

When did Schumacher trash Ferrari?

Don’t ever recall him doing so.

27

+1 he was so magmanamus in defeat at Suzuka 2006 when he had a engine failure which ended a titanic comeback, could easily of scolded the team, if he was alonso. But he had integrity loyalty and most of all commitment. Schumacher was and is the bench mark of a true team member. Always putting the team first even to the cost of his family’s relationship…..

28

Hi James,

do you think Ricciardo’s chances have diminished given his finishing position at the weekend ?

Was his result just a lack of race setup vs Qualy ?

29

The bad strategy started on Saturday when they decided to send him out and set a time in Q3. Torro Rosso made the mistake not to follow the same strategy as Red Bull/Webber. Setting a time gained them one place and a grid position on the dirty side.

30

Hi Dufus,

He’s finishing position was a result of a bad strategy call to just do a two stop strategy plus he had a first slow stop. Nothing really wrong with his driving TBH.

31

Ricciardo’s race last Sun was down mainly to him being on a 2 stopper which the team gambled on and it didn’t pay off.

Vergne was on a normal 3 stopper and Ricciardo still had the pace to run with him at the end on 12laps older tires.

I still think Kimi will get the drive as RB are all about selling can’s and as you could see from the podium crowd Kimi would sell a lot of cans of RB.

32

I see Ferrari have publicly admonished Alonso today. This is pretty unusual, the last time this happened was probably after Jerez 97 or when Irvine described the car as “brick slow” in 96.

Alonso is playing a dangerous game. Ferrari had no qualms about making Prost sit out a season and Alonso isn’t as successful as Prost was at that time..

That said, Ferrari knew what they were in for when they signed Alonso. He has been a key figure in the near destruction of the reputation of his last two teams, although his involvement in that is up for debate.

What I will say is, Alonso has a very significant flaw when it comes to building and leading a team. It is something that has plagued him since 2005/2006 when he very publicly criticised Renault. Should he not lift the title again in his career, I think this is a flaw that will be more closely examined.

Who would have thought 3 years ago that the prospect of Alonso and Ferrari partnership not winning a title would be a possibility.

33

To my amazement I see Luca has taken issue with Alonso’s comments. FA is the brightest hope they’ve got. Who, including Luca, has punched more above their weight for Ferrari?

Luca is risking someone reminding him where the ultimate corporate responsibility for success/failure usually rests. Heaven forbid that he might find Ferrari better managed in his absence.

34

spot on, the real issue here is Lucas poor management performance. He wants compliance. That is not going to happen to characters like RAI and ALO whose whole being is based on personal performance and fairness that goes with it. Why? because they know with all things being equal and fair- NOBODY BEATS THEM. This is something that Luca misses dramatically, he has always had more information by his role and background, contacts and connections. Instant information assymmetry. No wonder we are seeing what ae are seeing.When this plays out one thing will be certain. the two highest paid drivers will be alonso and raikkonen. Thats a quantative measure thats about all things being equal who gets the most potential and performance. I think if we poll that there would be high probability that these two guys are the standard and disagreement on this would be small.

35

Niki Lauda got back in the car six weeks after suffering life-threatening burns (and being read the Last Rites, for that matter). I’d say that probably qualifies as punching above his weight for Ferrari more than Alonso, if I’m being honest.

36

And what about Schumacher jumping back in the car 6 races after breaking his leg to help win the drivers championship for Irvine?

37

Rumour has it that that was only after the boss caught him playing footie in the garden. Made it a bit hard to claim to be unable to drive. He had apparently intended to sit out the rest of the season…

38

Another very good example.

39

Ok, here’s my view. Red Bull are disappointed in their young driver programme. Ricciardo is good but not great, Verne is too young, not showing enough promise. Red bull needs a young hot-shot, maybe possibly Felix Da Costa is the guy they have their eyes on and as such need to buy a year before he can come to RBR after a year at torro rosso. So… With Vettel looking to Ferrari for 2015, maybe its prudent to try and swap him for Alonso now to bed in a team leader before the new hot young guy comes in. Ricciardo could have a 1 year contract and everyone is happy? maybe?

40

Aero won’t be as dominant from 2014 onwards, so Redbull will need driver who’s NOT reliant on the car being perfect (as they’ll be outside of their comfort zone).

So Alonso really makes for them for next year.

Otherwise they’ll end up with a Button-Mclaren type situation.

41

The Red Bull car has never been “perfect” or “dominant”. Those of you who just started watching F1 around 2007 are not aware of this, but by the standards of great F1 cars all the RB’s have been pretty ordinary.

42

Industry insight puts Mercedes ahead of Renault with Ferrari behind.

Dear James during the last seasons it has always been that mercedes powertrain was the best.Remember red bull protesting about the engine freeze a couple of seasons back. Still Renault has most titles and most clients. So it is funny to suggest that industry knows what is talking about.

43

James, Ferrari have warned Alonso over comments he made over the weekend. Do you know what he said?

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