• The Inside Line

Grid games

Kate Walker
September 20, 2013
It would make no sense for Fernando Alonso to leave Ferrari for 2014 © Sutton Images
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Silly season gets sillier every year. I give it ten minutes before my name is linked with a seat, and not one in the press room.

Given the facts and rumours doing the rounds of the F1 circus, it's hardly surprising that the Singapore paddock is something of a hotbed of gossip and speculation. Everyone is said to be going everywhere, but I would be incredibly surprised if Fernando Alonso winds up at McLaren in 2014.

Sergio Perez may have said that his McLaren contract is as good as signed, but given that exactly one year ago the Mexican racer was caught out in a 'deliberate untruth' regarding his 2013 seat, there's no real reason to believe anything he says when it comes to contracts. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice? No thanks.

The fact of the matter is that there are - technically - two seats going free with the Woking racers. Jenson Button has a one-year option that has yet to be taken up, and Perez is still dotting those 'i's. Which means nothing has been signed, which means there's no contract currently preventing another driver from usurping his place with the team.

It is this theoretical double vacancy that has led to the current Alonso chatter. But - and I'm sticking my neck out here - it's not going to happen. Not next year, at any rate.

Alonso is a competitive animal, and his current prey is a clutch of world championships - preferably more than Sebastian Vettel has. And while the Asturian racer might not be overly pleased by the prospect of going head-to-head with Kimi Raikkonen, he knows that his chances of championship victory are stronger with an engine manufacturer than they are with a customer team in the last year of their supply contract.

McLaren might traditionally fight at the front, but this has not been their season. Next year is also unlikely to be their season - given the 2015 switch to Honda power Woking's resources will be dedicated to learning how to maximise the technical regulations while setting themselves up for a sustained championship challenge the following year. There's not much point throwing development dollars at a long-shot title when that money can be better invested in blowing the competition away with the rebirth of one of Formula One's most iconic partnerships.

Which isn't to say that McLaren has given up on 2014 before it's even begun - that goes against its racing instinct. But Alonso's racing instinct will be telling him that a return to Woking would be far better put on hold for a year, when both Honda and McLaren will be doing all they can to bring about a repeat of the 1988 season.

And if that happens? It will be Alonso's best chance to keep Vettel from claiming yet another title. After all, F1's brave new turbo world will be all about the engines, and not Adrian Newey's beloved aero.

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