Fernando Alonso is still the leading man of the intriguing 2014 'silly season'. Apparently on the way out at Ferrari, the Spaniard is said to have been caught off guard by Red Bull, who shut the door on Alonso in the wake of Sebastian Vettel's shock exit.
Alonso, 33, is now linked with McLaren-Honda, Lotus and Williams for 2015, while also presumably coveting a seat at dominant Mercedes. But he threw reporters off track after Sunday's Russian grand prix by declaring he will not be powered by a Mercedes engine next season.
Many took that as the strongest sign yet that Alonso, arguably the best driver in F1 but also perhaps the most temperamental, is headed to McLaren. But Spain's Marca claims Ron Dennis - far from Alonso's best friend in the F1 paddock - is using the situation to his advantage, driving down the price of his retainer and demanding a multi-year commitment.
Others think Alonso will take a sabbatical next year, but Alonso said at Sochi that is not a "big risk". Another Spanish daily, AS, claimed on Sunday it has heard from sources close to the negotiations that Alonso and Ferrari have not ruled out staying together in 2015.
That is despite Mercedes' Niki Lauda declaring confidently at Suzuka recently that Ferrari and Alonso dissolved their contract in the days before the Japanese grand prix.But Alonso said in Russia on Sunday: "Neither Ferrari nor I have said that we have ended my contract. So far that is just a rumour. I am doing the best for my future and for the future of Ferrari. Ferrari is the team that I love. I want to help this fantastic team."
Respected Italian media insiders, however, insist that Alonso and Ferrari are definitely splitting, especially after eyewitnesses reported an argument between the Spaniard and Marco Mattiacci at Suzuka that involved expletives and door-slamming.
Finland's Turun Sanomat cited Italian sources in claiming that the split, and the subsequent arrival of Vettel, may begin to take shape officially on Monday. Monday, October 13 is officially Sergio Marchionne's first day on the job as Ferrari president, following Luca di Montezemolo's departure. (GMM)