According to PitLaneTalk, Fernando Alonso has signed to drive for McLaren in 2015, relinquishing his seat at Ferrari.
The new Formula One hybrid power train package has been extraordinarily unkind to Ferrari. With only 5 races remaining in the 2014 season, the oldest race team in Formula One is fighting with Force India and Williams for 5th place in the manufacturers championship. This year’s car has been up to 2 seconds a lap slower than the title leading Mercedes Benz racers. Such poor performance is simply not tolerated at Ferrari.
So far in 2014, team principal Stefano Domenicali and long time chief engine designer Luca Marmorini have been axed from the team. Just two weeks ago, Luca di Montezemolo was unceremoniously shoved out the door after 27 years at the Ferrari helm. Now comes news that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will leave the team at the end of 2014 and drive for McLaren next year instead.
To put this in context, after being away from the sport for the past 8 years, Honda is rejoining the Formula One circus in 2015 as the exclusive engine and power unit supplier to McLaren. Honda and McLaren had a long and successful relationship in Formula One in the past with Ayrton Senna at the wheel, but that was almost 25 years ago. A lot of water has gone over the dam since then. Honda has let it be know that want a top tier driver to showcase their engineering prowess, and Alonso is considered by many as the best in the business.
This year, he has embarrassed his illustrious teammate, World Champion Kimi Raikkonnen, by out qualifying him in every race and scoring three times as many championship points as the taciturn Finn. Alonso has the ability to take any car by the scruff of the neck and force it to the front of the field regardless of his starting position. Sadly, in 5 years with the team, Ferrari has never given him a fully competitive car.
Fiat-CHrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, the man who forced out di Montezemolo, has made it clear that he has lost patience with Ferrari’s poor performance and intends to turn the team around if he has to fire everyone at the team headquarters in Maranello. And he is well on his way to doing exactly that.
Alonso’s decision to jump to McLaren is a bit surprising. McLaren has not fielded a championship wining car for 16 years. This year they have Mercedes power (the Honda drivetrains start next year), but are still running mid pack every race weekend. They have done poorly since chief aerodynamicist Adrian Newey left to work for Red Bull a decade ago. Alonso is one of the oldest active drivers and he wants to win another driving title or two before he retires. With McLaren’s lackluster record of late, the odds of that happening seem slim indeed.
But the rumor mill says Honda has already paid the 13 million Euro penalty to Ferrari because Alonso is leaving before the expiration of his contract and that the official announcement will be made at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in one week’s time. Of course, this is still speculation at this point, but I did call the departure of di Montezemolo correctly. There is just too much going on in the Twittersphere for there not to be substance behind this rumor. We will know for certain in about 10 days time.
I only hope that Fernando Alonso has not left Ferrari just when it is poised to start winning again.