One question still looms over Formula One: Fernando Alonso isn't going to stay at Ferrari, so where is he going to go? We've rounded up all of the rumors and ranked them from most to least likely.
Kimi Räikkönen is set to stay at Ferrari through 2015, and Sebastian Vettel is reported to have struck an $80 million deal with Ferrari to become the world's highest salaried athlete. So, where will Alonso go? Let's take a look.
This is one of the oldest rumors out there right now, and it's still the one that makes the most sense. Ferrari's car hasn't been as well developed as some of the other teams' in recent years, and it's hurt Alonso's chance to win. The Ferrari engine lags behind Mercedes' powerplant in nearly every race this year. McLaren, however, is getting an attractive Honda power unit next year that is immune from the engine development freeze by sheer merit of being a new design. Could that new design be the key to winning? Well, it's worth a shot.
Both Ron Dennis and Fernando Alonso deny a deal has been struck for the world champion to drive for McLaren alongside Magnussen. Then again, in the hyper-secretive world of Formula One, denial just seems to lend credence to rumors. In the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat, Luis Vasconcelos reported that Alonso's talks with McLaren are "tough" as of earlier this week, as Alonso is fighting for only a one-year contract.
Say Lewis Hamilton does make the move back home to McLaren, the team that supported Hamilton's development as a driver for many years. That opens up a spot alongside Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, and I'm not so certain Mercedes is ready to drop down to one top-level driver on their roster. Alonso to Lotus may be the new hot rumor right now, but Alonso trading up for a team whose cars have been doing well this year makes more sense, both as a career move as and for Mercedes themselves.
Hamilton was seen smiling as he left McLaren's facilities in Woking three weeks ago, and the last time he was on a team with Alonso, it was just about as tumultuous as having Rosberg as a teammate. If Hamilton's leaving Mercedes to have a place to stand out again, McLaren keeping Magnussen as his teammate makes more sense than bringing in Alonso. So, Alonso to Mercedes seems rather plausible at that point.
Sure, denial is the currency of proof in the silly season, and Fernando's got plenty of denial that he'll be in F1 at all next year. But could it be true anyway? Perhaps. Red Bull quickly back-filed Vettel's open spot with Daniil Kyvat from Toro Rosso. McLaren very well could take Hamilton back instead, and fans of the McLaren/Hamilton teams would rejoice. Or perhaps both McLaren and Mercedes stay put with their current rosters and Alonso has no other major team to hop over to. So, maybe he takes some time off to wait for the right opening to appear. That could happen.
Lotus hasn't been doing so well lately, both as a road car company as well as an F1 team. Grosjean isn't the happiest there, and perhaps the fact that his old team principal and manager Eric Boullier is now at Mercedes gives Grosjean a safe place to land in Button's place. That would open up a spot at Lotus next to Maldonado, a driver so crashtacular that he has his own crash countdown page.
But would Alonso be happy at a struggling team next to a crashy pay driver? Many of the personnel from when the team was still Renault and Alonso was driving for them have scattered far and wide, as Boullier has. Yet it's Flavio Briatore, Renault's old team principal, who is reportedly linked to offering Fernando a Lotus seat. This would be the pick-up of the year for Lotus, but a definite step down for Alonso given the team's recent performance.
I would, however, love to see the inevitable Alonso/Maldonado smackdown that could ensue here. I'm gonna go pop some popcorn and hang out with the drama llama if this comes to pass.
Ah, yes, there's the subject of the $25 million dollar deal with Cervélo, a maker of high-end, incredibly quick race bikes. This money will reportedly be used to launch a new cycling team to race in the World Tour next year. While this fits in perfectly with the fact that Formula One athletes are at the top of their physical game as well as the idea of Alonso taking a year off, there is a good chance that this is merely a cool sponsorship deal or a side project designed to leverage the F1 star's name and recognition to better promote Cervélo's bikes.
Why drive for an F1 team when you can probably buy one on the cheap? There's no need to worry about playing second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton or teammate-on-teammate crashes with Maldonado down at Caterham.
If there's one thing I know about driving a racecar, it's that a great deal of time and energy is spent on merely towing the sucker to the track and back. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ferrari's new parent company, now features a truck brand: Ram. Fernando is clearly looking for a change in pace by ending his contract with Ferrari early. What better spokesman for a line of tow vehicles than a racer himself?
All the cool kids from F1 are leaving to go run endurance races. Mark Webber and Giancarlo Fisichella are among the familiar names now running in the World Endurance Championship, and Button is rumored to be joining them soon. Lucky for Alonso, there's a season-dominating Tudor United SportsCar team that Chrysler just axed, waiting for someone to pick up the pieces and run with it.
This wouldn't be the first time a Formula One driver made the hop over to American oval racing. Shoot, even Alonso's current teammate Kimi Räikkönen spent a bit of time in NASCAR trucks. It's clear that Earnhardt, Jr., has a flair for the dramatic and a promising pilot in the works. Clearly, another top-level driver should take Dale's place, should he leave racing for primetime television. That driver is rumored to be Fernando Alonso, as totally made up by Hardibro himself.
Perhaps the idea of a non-business figurehead leading Ram outright is a bit of a stretch. If there's one racecar tow vehicle that beats a pickup, though, it's a van. The Ram ProMaster Van offers ample vertical space to be able to organize all your spares, wheels and assorted racecar junk in an organized fashion. Clearly, Fiat Chrysler Automobilies will leverage the Formula One star to be the new Van Man, pitching the humble tow vehicle to amateur racers with lightweight formula cars (it's only rated to tow 5,100 lbs, so that's perfect) everywhere.
Okay, now, this one is just unlikely. Texas alone has way too many guns to let this ever happen.
Consider this an offer. Seat's open, dude. We'll make room.
Fernando Alonso To Make Up A Whole Bunch Of Unsubstantiated Rumors About Jean-Éric Vergne To Post On Jalopnik
If there is anything Formula One drivers are good at, it's being obtuse to the media. "I'm absolutely not going to McLaren," they'll say, giving a wink to Ron Dennis out the corner of their eye. "I cannot offer any information on the Honda engine development program at this time," they'll say, driving away in a sweet Civic Si. "I'm not currently considering the offer to design a new line of Fisher-Price Puffalumps," they'll say as they sew together pieces of parachute material into a cute pastel bunny rabbit.
Alonso has reportedly offered his assistance with being willfully vague and non-committal statements to the mediato up-and-coming driver Vergne, starting with a recurring column next week.
Do you have any wild rumors about where Alonso is headed of your own, begging to be let out to the international media this Silly Season in a multi-language version of "Telephone?" Please, we beg of you as a fine, upstanding media outlet with the highest of editorial standards for insane F1 hearsay—post them in the comments below.
Photo credits: Getty Images (top shot, Lotus car, Alonso talking to media)