Alonso still holds key to driver market

Fernando Alonso continues to hold the key to unlocking the F1 driver market, as the Spaniard has yet to confirm his plans for 2008.

At the start of November McLaren announced the not unexpected news that the team had parted ways with the double World Champion after just one season. With Alonso yet to declare his hand and no decision from McLaren on his replacement, the driver line-up has not fallen into place as anticipated

The only firm news is that Williams has confirmed that Nico Rosberg is staying and will be partnered by erstwhile test driver and Toyota protégé Kazuki Nakajima. Speculation had suggested that Rosberg would be bought out of his Williams contract by McLaren. Timo Glock has been confirmed at Toyota after a contractual wrangle with BMW, but there is still some doubt about Jarno Trulli’s future with the team.

Alonso is known to want not only the appropriate remuneration and a competitive car, but also a one-year deal that will allow him to move on – presumably to Ferrari – at the first opportunity. That has proved a major sticking point with Renault, still his most likely destination. Matters are further complicated by the FIA’s spy enquiry into Renault (see above right). A major fine or other punishment could clearly impact upon Alonso’s decision.

He has apparently turned down Toyota, and also been linked with Red Bull, which has insisted that it will stick with Mark Webber and David Coulthard. However, Webber is managed by Flavio Briatore and could be transferred elsewhere if the right deal comes along.

If Alonso returns to Renault he will almost certainly partner Nelson Piquet Jr. That means Briatore has to find a new home for Heikki Kovalainen, who remains a favourite for a McLaren seat, and has also been offered to Toyota.