OCTOBER 19, 2007
Movements of the driver front
The Formula 1 driver market is currently stuck, waiting to see what will happen with Fernando Alonso and McLaren after the World Championship is over - hopefully on Sunday night. In the background things are bubbling away quietly with the rather odd situation of a lot of drivers who are contracted to teams suddenly seeming to be on the market again. There has been talk in recent days of the future of Jarno Trulli, who has a contract with Toyota, and also talk about the future of Rubens Barrichello at Honda. Barrichello is contracted to the team next year but this does not mean he will be racing if the team decides to pay him off. Rubens's performance in recent races has not been on a par with Jenson Button and the team says that it is looking at the various options as there appear to be a lot of drivers on the market. There is even talk of Rubens announcing his retirement on Sunday evening.
Ralf Schumacher in the meantime is going around telling anyone who will listen that he will be in F1 next year. He is expected to test over the winter with the Spyker team (or whatever it will be called by then) and we hear that Jarno Trulli is also likely to be part of that test, alongside Sakon Yamamoto and, probably, Tonio Liuzzi.
The most interesting rumour at the moment is that although the Felipe Massa re-signing at Ferrari is a strange and unexpected development, the most likely outcome of the Alonso situation is that Ferrari will stay as it is and that Fernando and Heikki Kovalainen will swap drives, with the Finn joining Lewis Hamilton at McLaren and Alonso going back to his old team. Giancarlo Fisichella might still be involved as he was Fernando's team-mate before - without too much trouble between the two men - but there is also a possibility that the drive will go to Nelson Piquet Jr.
The switch will still depend on large sums of money changing hands but ING may be more excited about Renault with Alonso driving and may be willing to give up some space on the car to allow Telefonica to come on board to pay the bills. One way or another McLaren are going to need to be paid off unless Alonso can dream up some kind of breach of contract on the part of McLaren. Such a claim would probably end up going legal and that could take months to sort out. During that period Alonso would not be free to move elsewhere and thus would probably have to sit out the season, which is not something he can afford to do at this stage of his career.