Fernando Alonso will continue to be a Ferrari driver in 2014, team principal Stefano Domenicali has insisted after rumours swept through the F1 world this weekend that Alonso might be in discussions about defecting to Red Bull to take over Mark Webber's soon-to-be-vacant seat next season. (See story
And Sebastian Vettel has also indicated that he's less than thrilled with the idea of Alonso getting the nod, revealing which of the current leading candidates for the #2 Red Bull seat he personally prefers.
"We have a contract with Fernando, Fernando is an asset to the team," insisted Domenicali after the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, which saw the two-time former world champion battle to a fifth-place finish in a car that clearly didn't suit the superheated Hungaroring.
"This is part of the game in this F1 paddock," he said, when asked whether the latest surge of rumours about Alonso's position would destablise the team heading into the August summer break. "You like this, we are very used to that," he added. "We are very used to it. Honestly it's gone in this ear and gone out that ear.
"For sure, we have a contract, don't you worry about that," Domenicali restated when asked again whether he could be absolutely sure that Alonso would be with the team next season. "For sure, everyone knows about it."
The rumours erupted in Budapest after reports that Alonso's manager Luis Garcia Abad was spotted in earnest discussion with Red Bull boss Christian Horner in the paddock in Hungary. Abad insisted that this was about another of his clients, Carlo Sainz Jr., and not related to Alonso at all.
Asked whether his manager was in talks with Red Bull about his future, Alonso himself responded: “No I don't think so. Not that I know of.” However, the little smile he gave as he replied had many feverishly speculating whether there wasn't more to the story.
However, Horner's own opaque 'non-denial denial' comments started the rumours mills churning into overdrive. Horner might be playing coy simply in order to stir a little unrest and uncertainty in his rival's camp over the August summer break. He may also have an eye on trying to force down the wage demands of another mooted candidate for the vacant Red Bull seat, assuming that the team is currently holding any negotiations with current Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen.
Perhaps more significantly, Red Bull's current star racer Sebastian Vettel has come out cautiously against the idea of Alonso joining him as a team mate next year, indicating that he would prefer the Finn instead.
"I need to be careful now!" said Vettel when asked whether he'd prefer Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen alongside him in the team. "Nothing against Fernando, I respect him a lot as a driver, but I think I respect Kimi on-track, off-track because he's always been very straight with me.
"From that point of view it might be a bit easier," he said. "I'd prefer Kimi."
Previous rumours suggesting that Vettel might be contemplating a future swap to Ferrari have usually been dismissed on the basis that Alonso would used his reported contractual right of veto over the selection of his team mate, as the Spaniard is thought to be keen to avoid another uncomfortable season such as his last at McLaren where he struggled to stamp his authority on a rookie by the name of Lewis Hamilton.
The latest rumours seem to have significantly impacted Daniel Ricciado's hopes of ascending to the Red Bull seat from his present berth at the junior Toro Rosso team.. The young Australian disappointed in the Hungarian Grand Prix, finishing behind his current team mate in 13th place a full lap off the leaders.
With the decision over who will replace Mark Webber expected to be taken over the summer break in August, this was Ricciardo's big chance to impress the Red Bulls powers to be that he was ready for the opportunity, and the way things went on Sunday may give Horner and the rest of the Red Bull team management pause for thought and sending them in the direction of more experienced pair of hands for what will be one of the plum seats on the 2014 F1 grid.
And when it comes to experience and talent, it doesn't get any better than weighing a choice between former world champions, and Horner reiterated this weekend that the team was in no hurry to make a final decision.
“We are starting to get a clearer picture but then other options pop up. We are in fortunate position where we are not in a rush,” he said. “We have a great deal of interest in the seat and we just want to make sure we get it right.”