The final gaps in the 2009 F1 entry list will be plugged when Fernando Alonso finally confirms his plans after the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Spaniard told Motor Sport: “I know what to do 99 per cent, but after Brazil, everybody will know.” It is widely assumed he will stay at Renault rather than take up an offer from Honda, the team’s recent surge in form having tipped the balance in Flavio Briatore’s favour. It’s not clear why Alonso has insisted on delaying any announcement.
His options were reduced when BMW announced just before the Japanese GP that Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld will stay on. Team boss Mario Theissen had admitted an interest in Alonso, but after the announcement Fernando played down any thoughts he might have harboured of going to BMW, as he did when Ferrari confirmed long-term deals with Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa.
Honda has pursued Alonso with vigour, however, and made it clear that the door was wide open for him. Jenson Button has extended his deal – although it has yet to be confirmed publicly – which means Rubens Barrichello is awaiting word on his fate.
GP2 star Bruno Senna (below) has emerged as a strong candidate for Honda, the obvious family connections making him a huge PR draw. Assuming he is not concealing plans to retire, Barrichello could find out after the end of the season that he has no job in 2009.
Honda boss Nick Fry said, “The repercussions go far beyond one other driver. There’s a line of hopefuls who won’t really know who they are until Fernando makes up his mind. Rubens is clearly one of those. But it affects several others as well.”
Force India boss Vijay Mallya has confirmed that veteran Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil are staying on for 2009, which means the only other seats yet to be confirmed are those at Renault and Toro Rosso. Nelson Piquet and Sébastien Bourdais are both waiting to hear whether they will be retained.