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By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 writer at Monza
Fernando Alonso always seemed to have a story following him around when he was in Formula 1, and it is not any different in Monza this weekend on his very first visit to some grand prix because Bahrain back.
The two-time world champion, who left F1 is at the Italian Grand Prix in his own position as a McLaren ambassador. But there are concerns about whether he may return to the game, not least because Alonso himself has always maintained the door open on the thought.
And the way this season has grown has assured the issue has remained very much living.
In among the three top teams, there are question marks one of the drivers, and Alonso provides a theoretical solution that, if validity was the only element in the choice, might be attractive.
His administration or alonso have contacted both groups to enquire about seats characters have told BBC Sport, but have been rebuffed.
This writer and alonso had a protracted – and basically personal – chat from the McLaren motorhome on Friday at Monza. I got nowhere, and prodded him about the Concept of an F1 return, to Ferrari and Red Bull about the approaches. We spoke in length of his preparations for the Dakar Rally, and chatted about the Indianapolis 500, F1 and his future.
Later that day, I had been back at McLaren speaking to chief executive officer Zak Brown.
Unexpectedly, a packet of sugar bearing a Ferrari emblem landed about this coffee cup’s saucer I drank, and Alonso walked by smile on his head.
Can you get that, I inquired?
He had been to the Ferrari motorhome, he said, for a conversation with their communications chief Silvia Hoffer Frangipane. She is currently a firm friend and spent at McLaren chaperoning Alonso.
“I proceeded to watch Silvia only to say hello,” Alonso said, grinning,”and I believed the story would be developed a little more now in your hands…”
His chances of a return to front-line F1 may appear slim, but Alonso has not lost some of the mischievous sense of humour. Nor his capacity to maintain himself.
Alonso is being discussed due to the driver situations in Ferrari and Red Bull.
Red Bull have dropped Pierre Gasly back to Toro Rosso following a disappointing first part of the season, and his substitute Alexander Albon has left a good start but is still quite early into the two races that the group say will choose whether he retains the drive for 2020.
At Ferrari the two drivers are under contract for next year, but everyone knows that in F1 that is not necessarily an impediment, and Sebastian Vettel’s form is increasing doubts about his potential.
The German has been out-qualified seven days in a row by Charles Leclerc. Even if a couple have experienced circumstances Monza on Saturday, Leclerc looks to be gradually emerging only by the strength of his performances. Along with the 21-year-old is being marked out as the long term future of the team.
Vettel is a proud man and the matter being requested is, what could he take action when he would like to stop the damage to his reputation, and just how long does he set up with this circumstance?
On the record, Vettel continues to insist he wants to remain in Ferrari and fulfill his ambition of winning the world title with this group.
However, for a while currently in F1 there have been whispers that the marriage between Vettel and Ferrari isn’t what it was, that he may be interested in a transfer away, and that his favorite destination would be Red Bull, where he achieved the huge majority of his success.
And who are a replacement for Vettel in Ferrari who might offer performance that is similar or potentially stronger? Well, a Spaniard, Naturally.
It should be said at this stage that both teams deny some of this could happen.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said in the Belgian Grand Prix final weekend which Vettel has been”not accessible following year”.
Pressed on how he understood, he said:”I understand. He is a Ferrari driver. He has contracted to the end of 2020.”
It had been pointed out into Horner when he finished up joining Ferrari, which Vettel was under contract to Red Bull for 2015. He shrugged.
In any case, this is a situation that is different. Vettel had what is called a performance clause in his contract, which allowed him to depart if he was by a specific point in the season under a championship position. Insiders say, that’s not the case; it’s a cast-iron contract with no escape clauses.
Ferrari team chief Mattia Binotto stated on Friday in Monza:”I’ve said it and I am confirming it – to second year Sebastian and Charles are our drivers and there is no doubt at all about that”
There are a number of reasons why Vettel to Red Bull and Alonso to Ferrari seem unlikely to occur.
Seeing Vettel, as one senior figure said, he is already finding a competition that is challenging that is Leclerc, so why in the world would confront a situation that is at least as difficult and more against Max Verstappen and he need to go to Red Bull?
Then there are the costs required with Red Bull of having to pay two star salaries. And the issues of managing two bulls in 1 field.
As due to Honda for Alonso’s opportunities at both group, Red Bull are from the question if they needed him.
After their time together at McLaren, the manufacturer blocked from forcing an Indycar in it with a few of its engines, so Alonso are hardly likely to cheer him into an car.
At Ferrari, it is obvious that they view Leclerc as their future for several years to come. Simply by going back to Alonso, why risk destabilising that?
Few would doubt that he offer functionality to them, and could be swift. But his time with the team did not exactly end five decades ago.
When the relationship fell during 2013 and 2014, even though he wasn’t directly involved in tackling Alonso, binotto was there. Would he really want to attract where stress and anxiety already run just by its nature all Alonso can entail into a team?
Meanwhile, the Alonso was conspicuous by his absence from the party of 90 decades of the Grand Prix in Milan on Wednesday, attended with a great number of ex-Ferrari drivers. Explanations as to why he was not there differed depending on to whom you spoke.
Alonso is about his plans. “We will see,” was all he’d say to BBC Sport when asked concerning any possible F1 return.
He’s been doing extensive desert testing and can be set to perform the Dakar Rally in one but this has not yet been officially announced. And he is still keen to acquire the Indianapolis 500 and become the sole driver besides Graham Hill to motorsport’s unofficial’triple crown’.
But he’s not thought to be keen on a Indycar program.
The obvious solution is to perform a deal with the top Penske team, who won the race Simon Pagenaud this year, next year for a car to conduct at Indy.
However, Alonso may choose to maintain his links to McLaren, and the possibility of the brand new Indycar staff running a third car for him in the Brickyard is quite much still available, regardless of the awkward set of conditions that resulted in them failing to qualify for the race that year.
Alonso is not exactly enthused by the concept of a 22-race F1 calendar.
And at the beginning of the 2021 year, when new regulations have been released in the hope of closing up the area, Alonso will be final on his birthday.
On its face, afterward, an reunite next season – or later – seems highly improbable. But in F1, you simply never know what might be around the corner.
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Analysis and comment from the main Formula 1 writer of the BBC.
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