Is Fernando Alonso really set to make a sensational switch from Ferrari to Red Bull in time for next season?
The two-time Formula One World Champion is thought to be locked into a long-term Ferrari deal, but reports emerged following the Hungarian Grand Prix that the Spaniard could be set to make the move from Ferrari to title rivals Red Bull and partner Sebastian Vettel at the World Champions.
With Mark Webber set to retire from Formula One at the end of the season a number of drivers have been linked with replacing him, none more so than Red Bull development driver Daniel Ricciardo and 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Raikkonen.
When Vettel was asked hypothetically who he would prefer as his team-mate for next season between the two former champions, Sebastian chose Kimi telling the BBC: ‘I’d prefer Kimi, I have to be careful now, nothing against Fernando. I really respect him a lot as a driver.
‘I respect Kimi on track and off track because he has always been really straight with me. From that point of view, it might be a bit easier.’
But will Vettel really get a choice over who is team-mate will be in 2014 and beyond? For all the denials coming from the Ferrari camp the Alonso link is a strong one, backed somewhat by the notable frustration shown by Alonso following the race on Sunday.
When asked by the media what Alonso would ideally like for his birthday he joked: ‘Someone else’s car.’ This tongue in cheek response got him a quick slap across the knuckles by Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo.
The Ferrari driver was said to have ‘tweaked his ear’ on Monday, potentially showing signs that all is not well in Maranello.
Video: Alonso reprimanded by Ferrari
When Alonso fell out of favour with McLaren his exit quickly followed, with him returning to Renault before making his eventual move to Ferrari.
Reports that Fernando Alonso’s manager Luis Garcia Abad had met with Red Bull principal Christian Horner over the weekend will not have helped smooth the situation.
Alonso has denied all knowledge of the meeting: ‘I don’t think so. Not that I know.’ he said when he was asked if it was true.
Whilst Abad himself confirmed that there had been ‘no discussions’, however the third person in this deal, Red Bull boss Christian Horner failed to squash the rumours, simply saying to Sky Sports: ‘Any conversations with any driver remain confidential. Of course, there has been quite a few drivers expressing interest in the seat, Is [Alonso] available? You ask him. We are going to take a bit of time to make the right decision. We have some great options and we don’t need to be in a rush.
Discussing the hypothetical idea of partnering Alonso with Vettel he added: ‘It would be interesting, At the end of the day we have to do what is right for the team and the pairing that we want to put together next year has to be right for the team.
‘Last week there was speculation about Kimi and this week there is speculation about Fernando but we have to make sure nothing wavers in our minds about putting together the fastest drivers we can find.’
A deal still seems highly unlikely due to Alonso’s long-term contract with Ferrari, but stranger things have happened in Formula One.