Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Decision Time

I'm starting to get a little bit tired of waiting for Alonso to make his mind up. He needs to stay in F1 to learn about losing traction control and lick his wounds from 2007 but, at the same time, a likely Ferrari contract in 2009 means he doesn't want to go anywhere for the long haul. And what's more his options are narrowing:

Ferrari out (at least till 2009)
McLaren out (obviously)
BMW out (can't see it)
Red Bull out
Williams out (never had the funding)
It's not worth mentioning the bottom three.
So who's left?

Toyota have allegedly offered Fernando $56 million for 2008 but the very fact that we know that suggests they are being used as pawn to push Alonso into the Raikkonen price bracket. Timo Glock has signed as a race driver and Trulli is waiting to see if he will be usurped. But does Alonso want to risk taking on another promising rookie? Number 1 status would probably be assured but driving an uncompetitive car (assuming Toyota remain the perennial underachievers) may take its toll.

Renault don't want Alonso just for the short term. The fact he hasn't already resigned seems to me to prove that they can't figure out two fairly major parts of the contract: Wage and length. I have to say it's looking less and less likely. Renault want Alonso but not for one year and not at the cost of $56 million. Fisichella (although he has gone testing at Force India and is probably out), Kovalianen and Piquet are all on the Renault books, all good drivers and the latter two have the potential to be great given time. Add to this the recent spy scandal and you have to wonder if Renault, a manufacturer long sceptical about the value of a F1 project, will be able to afford Alonso or in in the worst case (read McLaren case) scenario be able to afford F1.

So that leaves Honda and to be honest that would make perfect sense for Alonso. When you look at the above Alonso's position is by no means rosy for 2008 and the chances are he'll be at Ferrari in 2009 so all he needs a big pay packet and a get out clause in a year. Both of which Honda can offer. Given Ross Brawn's new position at Honda and the ban on traction control the future may even be quite bright for the Japanese mega-marque. Honda can only improve and now that their windtunnel is correctly calibrated (unlike last year) I fully expect them to. Aero was the main problem for Honda in 2007, their mechanical grip, gearbox and engine were in fact all very, very good. In slow corners Honda recorded some of the highest speeds their solid, if not spectacular, performance at Monaco is testament to that. All of which bodes well for the loss of TC that will ultimately only effect low downforce corners. By the end of the season I would not be surprised to see them competing against the likes of Renault and Toyota.

So if Alonso wants a year learning about how to live without TC I can think of much worse places to go than Honda especially with super-smooth Jenson Button in the garage next door. And if the Ferrari contract does fall through (or worse doesn't exist) Honda, in a year's time, have the potential to be sitting very pretty indeed.

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