The Formula One headlines have been stuck saying the same thing for about a month now.
"Lotus: uncertainty holding up 2014 lineup," says one on Autosport.com
"McLaren to wait a little longer before announcing 2014 lineup," says another, this one on James Allen's website over a story that was posted Sept. 8 and it's now nearly November (giving new meaning to the term "a little longer").
"Ferrari: no lingering Alonso tension," is yet another that can be found on Autosport.com and although it doesn't refer directly to who will drive where next season, it is revealing in the way it's worded.
Fernando Alonso is probably the best racing driver in F1 today but under his skin he is an extremely insecure man. His outbursts about the inadequacies of Ferrari earlier this season had as much to do with Felipe Massa beating him in qualifying as it did with the ability of the team to perform.
In 2007, as a two-time world champion, he had been wooed away from Renault by Ron Dennis to race for McLaren and he signed a three-year contract. Alonso went as No. 1, which he'd been at Renault. Dennis then brought rookie Lewis Hamilton into the team and treated him like a co-No. 1 and that was enough to just about drive Alonso crazy. Despite the three-year contract, he left after that first season.
Now Ferrari has done to him exactly what Dennis and McLaren did: they have hired Kimi Raikkonen to replace Massa and I guarantee you that Raikkonen is not going to the Scuderia to be No. 2. It is hard to believe that Alonso will go along with that arrangement.
Yes, as has been pointed out by the team, some fans, journalists and even Alonso himself, he has a contract with Ferrari that runs through 2016. But I'm confused. What's the difference if he changes teams after 2014 (which everybody seems to think is a given) or now? And as was shown with McLaren, there are ways of getting out of F1 contracts.
Alonso is a Spanish driver. Ferrari's main sponsor is a Spanish bank, Santander. That bank is spending a fortune in Formula One. Does anybody really believe that Ferrari would stand in the way of Fernando Alonso leaving to drive for McLaren if that bank made it an offer it couldn't refuse?
And that's why everybody is standing around waiting for that to happen. The whole paid-driver market is on hold until the first domino falls.
When Alonso pulls the trigger, that will open the door for Ferrari to sign Nico Hülkenberg. McLaren will then officially extend Jenson Button's contract to partner Alonso (there have been some reports that this has already happened but the team hasn't said so officially). That leaves Sergio Perez to then take his Mexican millions to Lotus, which would then have the cash to retain Romain Grosjean.
Why does Alonso want to return to McLaren? Because they are building a powerhouse there, with Honda engines arriving for the 2015 season, Adrien Newey design disciple Peter Prodromow returning after spending time at the elbow of the master at Red Bull and Ross Brawn probably signing on after Mercedes confirmed this week (then waffled) that he would be leaving that team at the end of this season.
McLaren also wants a year for the team to gell before new regulations come into force in '15, hence the desire to have their No. 1 driver in place for 2014.
So all eyes are on Fernando Alonso. If and when he moves, everything else will quickly fall into place. Until then, though, the excuses for not signing drivers will continue and the headlines won't change much either.
- NORRIS McDONALD